Naguib Sawiris’ Weather Investments is suing the Algerian government for US$5 billion in damages over the state’s alleged interference in Weather’s former ownership of Orascom Telecom Algérie (Djezzy), the country’s largest mobile operator.

In a statement, Sawiris (pictured) said that the government had “pursued a campaign of interference and harassment” since 2008, which eventually “forced” the sale of the unit as part of Weather’s merger with VimpelCom last year.

“We would have kept the business, but we had to sell it, and we had to sell it cheap,” he said.

According to the Financial Times, Weather has lodged its complaint with the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID). It is said to be one of the largest claims to be brought before the tribunal, which is part of the World Bank. 

Luxembourg-based Weather is accusing the Algerian state of breaching an investment treaty between Algeria and the Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union.

Emmanuel Gaillard, head of the international arbitration group at Shearman & Sterling, the firm representing the Algerian government, told the Financial Times: “We confirm that Weather Investment has initiated arbitration proceedings for alleged treaty breaches. We intend to vigorously defend the case. We think the claimant has no case.”