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Assembly forms panel to probe two defense deals

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The National Assembly on Wednesday approved a request by several lawmakers to form a parliamentary investigation committee to probe allegations of corruption in two multibillion-dollar defense deals. The committee will investigate allegations surrounding the $8 billion deal to purchase around 30 Eurofighter warplanes and another $1 billion deal to purchase 30 Caracal military helicopters from Airbus industries.

The two deals were signed several years ago, but many MPs have charged that they included graft and technical defects. The court is also looking into allegations of corruption over the Eurofighter deal. MP Adel Al-Damkhi last week threatened to grill Defense Minister Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ali Al-Sabah if he did not cooperate with the Assembly to probe alleged corruption and violations over the Caracal deal. Kuwait has already taken delivery of most of the helicopters.

On Wednesday, Sheikh Abdullah said the ministry will cooperate with the investigation committee and provide all necessary information about the armament deals. Two weeks ago, MPs also agreed to launch an investigation into alleged graft in the so-called Army Fund, in which a former prime minister and defense minister stand accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dinars from the fund.

The Assembly also agreed to form a parliamentary panel to investigate alleged violations in the distribution of industrial land and the renewal of industrial plots in violation of the rules. The Assembly also passed an amendment to the penal code to include what is called a juridical person, a non-human legal person like corporates, government bodies, non-governmental organizations or international organizations in corruption cases in courts.

MPs said the amendment fills a big loophole in laws designed to fight corruption, which target only human beings and not legal entities. Since its inauguration in October, the National Assembly has passed a number of laws to fight corruption.

Meanwhile, five lawmakers submitted a draft law requiring the government to grant Kuwaiti citizenship to up to 4,000 stateless people or bedoons in 2023. Some 120,000 bedoons have been living in Kuwait for decades and claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship, but authorities say a majority of them or their ancestors entered Kuwait illegally to claim nationality.

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