Kuwait ministers quit over corruption inquiry

Kuwait’s emir on Saturday accepted the resignation of his oil and transportation ministers who stepped down over a parliament inquiry into corruption allegations, the state-run news agency reported.The resignations came five days after Kuwaiti lawmakers requested the impeachment of Sheikh Ali Al Jarrah Al Sabah, the oil minister and a member of the ruling family, over allegations that he helped his cousin embezzle public money from a state-owned company more than a decade ago.

A vote of no-confidence against the minister was scheduled for early next month, however the minister presented his resignation a couple of days ago to avoid public humiliation, the agency said. Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah accepted it Saturday.

In solidarity with the oil minister, Kuwait’s Transportation Minister Sharedah Mawashergi, who is also the state minister for the parliament affairs, presented his resignation and it was also accepted, KUNA said.

The ministers of electricity and residence will temporarily fill the vacancies, KUNA added. The oil minister has denied any wrongdoing. But he had angered the Kuwaiti parliament when he told the local Qabas daily newspaper in an interview in May that his cousin, Sheikh Ali Al Khalifa Al Sabah, was his “teacher” and he “sometimes consulted with him on oil matters”. The cousin was accused of “making it possible” when he was oil minister for officials of the Kuwait Oil Tankers Co. to embezzle millions of Kuwaiti dinars from the company. A Kuwaiti criminal court in 1996 sentenced three officials to up to 40 years in prison and ordered them to jointly repay $63 million — the amount they were convicted of illegally acquiring — plus an identical sum in fines.

However, an appeals court later reversed the convictions because the court papers were not dated. The case against the former oil minister was also dropped on a technicality, after years of legal manoeuvring in different local courts.

Lawmaker Adel Sarawi has accused Sheikh Ali Al Jarrah Al Sabah of using his influence when he was chief executive officer of Kuwait’s Burgan Bank to open accounts at the request of his cousin, in the names of paper companies so that they could be used for siphoning the stolen money.

The minister said the accounts were legally requested by company officials, he had nothing to do with them and he would have been officially charged if he did.

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