Lebanon’s Ogero, a state-owned telecoms service provider, and several private companies have been implicated in a case involving illegal import and distribution of internet bandwidth in Lebanon.

Unlike in most Mena states, internet service provision in Lebanon is monopolised by the government, which some assume may have led to the option of importing cheaper bandwidth that bypasses the state’s internet gateway.

Apart from flouting the state’s regulation, the scandal dragged Ogero’s director general Abdul Moneim Youssef into the picture for allegedly cutting deals with the private companies for the share of their profits, local media reported. 

It is also suspected that Israel had managed to inflitrate the illegal network.

Youssef is understood to have been interrogated by Lebanon’s law enforcement authorities on 21 April, released and been banned from leaving Lebanon. The same reports say sources close to Youssef denied than an interrogation took place.

Four illegal internet stations have been found in the mountainous terrains of Al-Dinnieh, Ayun al-Siman, Faqra and Zaarur. The owners of these internet stations are understood to have purchased bandwidth at nominal costs from Cyprus and Turkey and marketed the services locally at significantly reduced price compared to the fees charged by the government.

The illegal activity was revealed by Telecommunications MInister Boutros Harb, a former presidential candidate, in March. Suspicions have since been raised whether Harb could be aware of Youssef’s alleged involvement in the scam.

The Telecommunications Ministry contributes between $1.2 and $1.5bn to the state revenues annually, reports said.