By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The criminal court on Tuesday sentenced two Kuwaiti defendants to 10 years in jail over money laundering charges as part of the worldwide scandal of the so-called Malaysian Fund. The court also passed a 10-year jail sentence against two foreign accomplices, a French businessman of Syrian descent and a Malaysian businessman and financier, who is the main defendant in the scandal involving 1Malaysian Development Berhad (1MDB), the Southeast Asian country’s sovereign wealth fund. The court also jailed a Kuwaiti lawyer for seven years.

The court ordered the convicts to return $1 billion and fined them KD 145 million. The court convicted them of laundering $1 billion sent by the Malaysian convict using a Kuwaiti bank account, and then transferring the money to Swiss bank accounts. Under former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, the country’s sovereign fund was systematically embezzled for a total of $4.5 billion, with the Malaysian businessman convicted in Kuwait playing an instrumental role in the fraud.

The money was sent to several countries including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, China and others. The court’s ruling is not final, as it can be appealed before the court of appeals and the court of cassation, the highest in the country. The case attracted huge attention in Kuwait, especially in the National Assembly, where MPs demanded an investigation into the major money laundering case.

Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem on Tuesday chaired a meeting of the Assembly office, the second meeting since the house, dissolved by HH the Amir last year, was reinstated in a landmark ruling by the constitutional court last week. The court found faulty procedures in the Amiri decree dissolving the Assembly and decided to scrap the entire election process held in Sept 2022 that resulted in the opposition winning a landslide victory.

The ruling has plunged Kuwait into a new political crisis with the opposition rejecting the court’s verdict and insisting they will not cooperate with the reinstated house. Ghanem had called for holding fresh elections but only after passing a number of laws to ensure the integrity of the polls, including approving a draft law to establish a higher election commission.

The legislative and legal committee of the reinstated Assembly is meeting today to discuss the draft law for setting up the election commission. It will send its report to the Assembly for approval. The re-instated Assembly has not held sessions yet as it awaits Prime Minister-designate HH Sheikh Ahmad Al-Nawaf Al-Sabah to announce his new Cabinet.