20 MPs ask govt to refile bribery case

KUWAIT: In a major development, 20 opposition lawmakers yesterday signed a letter calling on the government to refile the corruption case involving 13 MPs, which led to street protests in the country six years ago. The lawmakers warned that if the government does not file the case with the public prosecution, they will use their constitutional tools against the government, which means grilling ministers or the prime minister himself.

The case involves MPs who were elected to the Assembly in 2009. It was reported that at least 13 MPs, some of them still active members, accepted cash bribes of over KD 50 million to vote in favor of certain issues. The exposure of that corruption case led to street protests against the government and demands for former prime minister HH Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah to resign.

In one of the protests in Nov 2011, hundreds of protesters stormed the National Assembly building and the appeals court four months ago sentenced 67 of them to harsh jail terms. The corruption case was handled by the public prosecution in late 2011 and early 2012, but it decided to shelve the case. The letter yesterday said that the shelving was because of a lack of legislation, although the crime was established. They added now the legislative vacuum has been filled after the Assembly last month passed the conflict of interests law which deals with such cases. The letter said that such cases do not die with the passage of time and should be resubmitted to the prosecution.

Among those who signed the letter are MPs Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, Jamaan Al-Harbash and Mohammad Al-Mutair, the three MPs who were handed jail terms in the Assembly storming case. The letter stressed that the government has failed to perform its duty in fighting corruption, which has become widespread. The large number of signatories is likely to apply pressure on the government to take some action. MPs Abdulkarim Al-Kandari, Riyadh Al-Adasani and others also sternly warned against any attempts to introduce changes to the Assembly’s charter to make it difficult for MPs to grill ministers.

Meanwhile, the Assembly yesterday approved in the first reading a law that regulates registration of commercial records and granting commercial licenses. During the debate on the law, Commerce and Industry Minister Khaled Al-Roudhan said that the ministry will soon allow the establishment of a consumer protection society. Also during the debate, Islamist MP Osama Al-Shaheen clashed with MP Safa Al-Hashem over the Transparency Society, after Hashem lashed out at the society’s officials, accusing them of being corrupt. Shaheen defended the society, saying its officials were elected by society members and were performing their duties in accordance with the law.

By B Izzak

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