Thursday 8 September 2011

Corruption scandal plunges Kuwait into deep crisis


The wealthy Gulf state of Kuwait appeared headed Thursday for a major political crisis over allegations of corruption involving several members of Parliament and former ministers. Media reported that a number of banks planned to refer as many as 15 MPs and possibly former ministers to the public prosecution to investigate "suspicious" huge cash deposits into their accounts. Citing informed sources, Al-Rai daily said local banks are likely to refer between 15-20 MPs in the 50-member parliament to public prosecution to probe money-laundering suspicions. It said a number of former ministers could be involved in the scam. State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Ali al-Rashed denied late Wednesday reports that incumbent ministers were involved in the alleged scandal. The government has instructed the central bank and the finance ministry to "take all necessary legal measures" to deal with the allegations. The scandal, as opposition MPs describe it, was exposed by Al-Qabas newspaper in an unsourced report two weeks ago that cash funds totaling 25 million dinars ($92 million/65.4 million euros) had been deposited into the accounts of two MPs. The report claimed the deposits were linked to domestic political events including grillings, indicating that the deposits were used to buy the support of the lawmakers in crucial voting in parliament. Independent Shiite MP Hassan Jowhar expected the issue to develop into a major political crisis that will lead to dissolving parliament and calling for snap polls, the fourth since May 2006. Youth activists campaigning to oust Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family, plan to stage a new rally on September 16 and the corruption charges could energize them. Kuwaiti opposition MPs demanded recalling parliament from summer recess for an emergency session on September 22 to review government measures on the allegations and debate and pass a number of anti-corruption laws.