Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft

By B Izzak and Meshaal Al-Enezi

KUWAIT: The public prosecutor yesterday referred the multibillion-dollar Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft deal to the investigation committee of the special court that tries ministers. The move came after Defense Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Mansour Al-Sabah filed a complaint to the public prosecutor over allegations of corruption, amid reports of kickbacks in the $9 billion deal.

Informed sources said the report includes the involvement of some senior officials including a former defense minister and retired and current officials. Sources said according to accusations, some officials had unlawfully profiteered from their positions by deliberately inflating the contract value, exceeding their liabilities and not obtaining the required audit approvals, which caused massive loss of public funds.

The deal in question involves purchasing 28 Eurofighter jets at a total value of $9 billion, which is twice the actual cost, in addition to millions of dinars in commissions unlawfully paid to middlemen. The defense ministry had formed a special committee to investigate Audit Bureau reports concerning the Eurofighter contracts as well as those signed between the ministry and Airbus to purchase 30 Caracal helicopters along with maintenance, spare parts, training and technical support.

In a related development, the Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) yesterday referred the director general of a public authority to the general prosecution to cross examine charges by Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs and Justice Fahd Al-Afasi against him. Mohammad Bouzbar, Nazaha's official spokesperson, said in a press release that the case revolves round a third charitable stake in a commercial company. When the company's extraordinary general assembly decided to liquidate the company, a panel tasked with the liquidation was formed and was headed by the director general of a public authority to ensure exemption of the charitable stake from the liquidation.

However, the latter's performance in this regard was shrouded with suspicion and ambiguity. Against this backdrop, Afasi submitted relevant documents to Nazaha to cross-examine the case and it did so instantly. Investigators found suspicious grave misappropriation of the third stake - the suspected offender neglected "technical studies and practiced his tasks without legal bases", where benefactors were deprived of proceeds from some realty assets.

Investigations, clues and testimonies led to conclusions that there was perpetrated intention to jeopardize public funds and make illegal earnings classified as an offense according to article 11 of law 1/1993 on protection of public funds, Bouzbar said. Realizing that there have been reasonable basis for suspicious corruption as stipulated in provision 22 and subjecting the suspected culprit to law 2/2016, Nazaha referred the related papers to the prosecution, recommending that the director general be suspended from work during the investigation period pending issuance of a judicial rule in this respect.

Meanwhile, an official source at the Kuwaiti ministry of foreign affairs has voiced Kuwait's dismay and condemnation of the Filipino foreign affairs secretary's remark about a case of a slain Filipino national. According to reports circulated by media and social networking sites, the Filipino secretary recently said he will not accept anything other than the lives of those who committed the crime against the deceased Filipino national in Kuwait.

The remark contained an unacceptable transgression against jurisdictions of Kuwaiti security and judicial authorities, the official source said, describing the statement as an unusual approach in dealing with countries. It runs counter to the simplest rules of international relations, the source lamented. The source also noted the Filipino secretary's remark represents an attempt to influence the ongoing investigations.

Kuwait is known for its commitment to ensuring the safety and security of all who live on its soil and punishing law violators in accordance with the provisions of the country's laws and in a manner that guarantees the rule of law and justice for all, added the foreign ministry source.

The source also lauded the measures taken by Kuwaiti relevant bodies on this case. They quickly arrested those who committed the crime and referred them to a fair judiciary, the source clarified. Kuwait has also informed the Philippine authorities of its readiness to receive a Filipino security team to get acquainted with the measures taken on the case and the latest updates of the investigations.

Meanwhile, two MPs insisted yesterday on their resignation from the financial and economic affairs committee, saying the panel does not meet because a majority of other members do not attend meetings. MP Bader Al-Mulla said he and MP Saleh Ashour were actively taking part in the committee's functions until after the new Cabinet was formed, but then quit the panel because no meetings were held. Ashour also said he will not go back on his decision to resign from the committee because it was not holding any meetings and not even focusing on the important issues that concern citizens, like forgiving bank loans of Kuwaiti debtors.

Meanwhile, MP Safa Al-Hashem said after attending the budgets committee meeting with Minister of Public Works Rana Al-Fares that it appears that the metro and railway projects will not be implemented. She provided no details on her conclusion but added that she based this outcome on the way things are going. She said that until today, the problem of flying gravel and problems related to paving roads have not been resolved.

Member of the interior and defense committee MP Farraj Al-Arbeed said yesterday that the panel agreed to grant widows of Kuwaitis citizenship five years from the date of marriage. He said the committee decided to postpone the discussion of the government's law for naturalizing foreign spouses of Kuwaiti men because of a number of problems, mainly requiring 18 years of marriage to be able to get Kuwaiti citizenship. MPs want the period cut to 10 years.