x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Bank accounts of 14 Kuwait MPs to be frozen in bribery inquiry

Amount of money involved in alleged bribery scandal claimed to be as much as Dh1.28 billion, with reports that number of MPs embroiled in the scandal could rise to 20.

KUWAIT CITY // An investigation into the bank accounts of several members of parliament has been expanded, it was reported yesterday.

The politicians are under suspicion of possibly taking bribes.

Dharar Al Asousi, the acting attorney general, said he would freeze the bank accounts of 14 of parliament's 50 members yesterday, the daily Al Jarida reported, quoting unnamed sources.

"The public prosecution will enforce the law on everyone," the newspaper's source said. "It has already started the probe into MPs' bank deposits and is listening to the depositions of the banks."

The scandal began two weeks ago and could mean the Gulf's most powerful parliament is heading into a crisis when it reconvenes after the summer recess next month.

The report in Al Jarida estimated that the number of MPs embroiled in the scandal could rise to 20 as banks refer MPs' accounts with suspicious transactions to the public prosecution.

"Kuwaitis are very angry," said Mohammed Abduljader, a liberal former member of parliament.

"This issue is about the reputation of the parliament - it is a challenge for Kuwait's democracy."

Mr Abduljader was elected to parliament in 2008.

He said that during his time in the assembly he heard rumours about "some deals" being made between "petroleum companies" and elected representatives.

"But it's not like this scandal. This is much worse," he added.

Ahmed Sadoun, a member of parliament's Popular Action Bloc, has said the amount of money involved in the scandal is about 96 million Kuwaiti dinars (Dh1.28 billion).

While the names of those under investigation have not been released, several MPs have been linked to the scandal in newspapers. Those mentioned often back the government in votes.

Some Kuwaitis suspect the payments have been made by members of the royal family in a bid to secure support. Others have suggested that the source of the money is elsewhere.

Khaled Al Adwa, an MP, said in comments reported by Agence France-Presse yesterday that some people "are working for and getting aid by powers outside the state authority to destroy Kuwait".

The scandal has provoked large anti-corruption demonstrations.

This week, two political groups announced that they would question the prime minister, Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al Sabah, over his failure to prevent the spread of corruption in parliament.

Sheikh Nasser has been questioned by MPs before but on several other occasions the emir has dissolved parliament or the cabinet has resigned to prevent an interpellation.

Mr Abduljader said the scandal is shaking Kuwait's parliamentary democracy to its foundations, adding: "MPs are elected by the people to keep the government on the right track - they must do their jobs."

jcalderwood@thenational.ae