“If you want to hurt me, I can hurt you back,” Antoine Dagher tells Executive, laughing as he tries to keep his name out of this article. A former communications manager for Petroleb, one of three Lebanese companies prequalified to bid in the first offshore licensing round, Dagher belatedly clarifies, “I’m not threatening you.” Petroleb still uses Dagher as a consultant, but in early September, so did the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA). Executive had wondered whether or not this was a conflict of interest, which Dagher insisted it was not.
This is only one of the complications encountered in trying to pin down the details about the three ‘Lebanese’ companies — out of a total of 46 — prequalified to participate in Lebanon’s nascent oil and gas sector. A company identified by the LPA as a ‘Lebanese’ prequalifer, Apex Gas Limited, is actually registered in Hong Kong, not Beirut, through a process tailored to keep shareholders and directors anonymous. Taken together, these experiences offer a fresh perspective on the murky nature of the oil and gas industry, and how instead of starting off with a clean slate, it appears Lebanon’s new petroleum sector is already sliding into the shadows.