Kuwait government denies corruption allegations
KUWAIT CITY - Kuwait's government on Wednesday disputed allegations by the opposition that tens of billions of dollars were stolen from public funds by former senior officials, saying documents supporting the claims are fake.
Prominent opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak told a huge rally in Kuwait City Tuesday that former senior officials stole around $50 billion from public funds over the past seven years.
He provided foreign bank accounts and documents showing transfers that he said backed up his allegations.
Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah Wednesday told parliament, which demanded a debate on the issue, that Barrak's claims were unsubstantiated.
"I received the documents yesterday. They were simple white sheets containing tables (of figures) and they do not qualify even to be examined," the prime minister said.
Finance Minister Anas al-Saleh said the documents were no more than tables of figures which could not be properly investigated as they lacked crucial details.
"The documents show huge amounts but are without sources or dates. The central bank governor agreed to this assessment," Saleh told MPs.
Parliament speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem too alleged that the documents were fake.
At the rally, the first in over a year, the opposition claimed the funds were smuggled to accounts in foreign banks including one in Israel -- with which Kuwait has no diplomatic or commercial ties. It also urged the government to hire an international company to trace the funds.
Justice Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah said the government would file a lawsuit against Barrak for making allegations without evidence.
OPEC member Kuwait appears to be sliding back into political turmoil following months of relative calm that came after years of bitter disputes between MPs and the government.
The country was shaken two months ago after news surfaced about videotapes allegedly showing former senior officials plotting a coup. Two newspapers have already been shut twice for a total of 19 days for breaking a news blackout on the issue.
Three MPs in the 50-member parliament resigned on April 30 after the house rejected a request to grill the prime minister over alleged corruption. Two more lawmakers resigned a few days later.
Two ministers have already quit from the 16-member cabinet formed in August but reshuffled in January.
Kuwait opposition groups in April called for unprecedented democratic reforms including a Western-style party system and an elected government to limit the powers of the emirate's Al-Sabah ruling family which has been in power for over 250 years.
Kuwait witnessed its worst domestic political turmoil in its history between mid-2006 and last year during which about a dozen governments were formed and parliament was dissolved six times.