Thirty-one people were handed jail terms by the Criminal Court in late October for their part in an alleged fraud in the power sector. Those convicted include senior government officials, among them former undersecretary at the Ministry of Housing, Electricity & Water (MHEW) Abdullah bin Ali Dawood, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison and fined. Hussain bin Mohammed bin Ali, a former ambassador of Oman to the UK, was convicted of forgery.
The case revolved around an incident at the government-owned Rusayl power plant, which resulted in one of the units being shut down. Oman National Electricity Company (ONEC), under the terms of its operating agreement, was obliged to pay a fine and a committee was established at MHEW to determine whether the RO 2.5 million ($6.4 million) penalty should be imposed. The company was accused of having bribed the committee to waive it. ONEC's general manager of three decades was jailed for five years. The corruption investigation was triggered by a report by the International Auditing Bureau, which sent a list of violations to the Capital Market Authority. The sentences took many in the industry by surprise. 'I don't know why they have been so tough,' says an official familiar with the process. 'Perhaps they want to send a message that corruption won't be tolerated.'