Senegal gas protest

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Senegalese riot police fired tear gas and detained more than 20 people at an unsanctioned protest in Dakar over a BBC report of allegations the president’s brother was involved in fraud related to two offshore gas blocks developed by BP PLC.

Prosecutors said they will open an investigation following publication of the BBC report earlier in June. The report caused a public outcry and cast a shadow over Senegal’s energy plans years before the first oil and gas starts flowing.

Opposition groups called for a peaceful protest for Friday, but the authorities did not give permission.

A Reuters witness in central Dakar saw police firing tear gas canisters and detaining protesters, who chanted slogans such as ‘We are Senegalese! It’s too much!’

It was not possible to estimate the size of the protest as it was not localised. The situation was calm by the evening.

The BBC report said, in a previously unpublished arrangement, BP agreed to pay Timis Corporation, a firm run by Romanian-Australian tycoon Frank Timis, about $10 billion in royalty payments for its stake in the two blocks.

The BBC said, based on documents it reviewed, a secret payment of $250,000 was made by Timis to a company run by the president’s brother, Aliou Sall. He denied receiving the payment and called the report “totally false.”

Timis has not been reachable for comment, but told the BBC in a statement there had been “no wrongdoing whatsoever.”

The blocks are currently operated by BP, which “rejects any implication it acted improperly.”

The blocks, Cayar Offshore Profond and St. Louis Profond, have caused controversy since 2012, when a previously unknown company called Petro-Tim was unexpectedly awarded the licence despite having no known track record in the industry. Soon after, the president’s brother was hired at the company.

Protests against that deal erupted in Dakar in 2016, casting a shadow over President Macky Sall’s first term.