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6 Royal family members involved in visa scandal
January 14, 2014, 11:05 pm
A major visa fraud scandal involving a senior Ministry of Interior official saw a new twist yesterday when a local Arabic daily reported that six members of the ruling Al-Sabah family were also implicated. Al Rai Arabic daily, quoting unnamed sources with knowledge of the investigation, said that the prime suspect in the case is a former director at the Interior Ministry, who is also a relative of former Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Hmoud Al-Sabah. The newspaper reported that the investigation began during Sheikh Ahmad’s tenure but no action was taken until around a month ago. The senior official, who worked in the office of the Minister of the Interior, had been suspended and then forced to retire before the investigation went forward. The case was first discovered by General Department of Immigration officials during Sheikh Ahmad Al-Hmoud’s term. They notified Maj Gen Sheikh Faisal Al-Nawaf Al- Sabah, the Assistant Undersecretary for Citizenship and Passports Affairs, who then followed up with the investigations and eventually informed the new Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, who took up his post on Aug 4, 2013. In Dec 2013, the prime suspect was confronted by the new interior minister. “The official then applied for retirement, which he got,” the source said. The man was reportedly promoted to lieutenant general upon retirement in accordance with the Interior Ministry’s protocol.
Royal involvement
Meanwhile, the investigation has revealed that “more than six members” of the ruling family are involved in the case, including one “who made at least KD 100,000 a month” from the issuance of illegal visas. The senior official at the center of the scandal and whose name has not been released to the public was referred to the public prosecution. The new Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad, who retained his seat in the recent Cabinet reshuffle, has since formed a committee to probe the case. “While the committee focused on the administrative side of the issue, officers had already been following up with their discovery of the case which happened when an expatriate arrived with a visa issued in the name of the minister’s office director,” Al-Rai reported. After discovering that the visa was issued illegally, the officers tracked transactions issued by the prime suspect, which led to the discovery of thousands of illegal visas. According to the sources, the officers kept their investigations secret out of concern “given the blood relationship between the minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Hmoud and the director of the minister’s office”. The sources also spoke about a “conflict between senior officials who are members of the ruling family, including one who gave promises to a senior official of being promoted in the near future, which made the process of passing the illegal transactions easier.”
Probe widened
Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khalid formed a second committee led by Maj Gen Abdulhameed Al-Awadhi, the Assistant Undersecretary for Criminal Security, to investigate involvement of officers, including senior officials, in the case. In this regard, the sources revealed that several Immigration Department employees were questioned, including female staff members “who expressed frustration over alleged mistreatment that involved confiscation of their cell phones”. Investigations also revealed that six Arab representatives (mandoubs) fled the country after news about the case broke out, the sources said, adding that their names were blacklisted to be arrested should they attempt to return to Kuwait. The General Department of Immigration placed a security block on the files of 12,000 expatriates in the aftermath of the case, in order to check their visas and identify those who entered Kuwait illegally. The case has caused an outcry in the parliament, with multiple MPs criticizing police procedures, mainly with regards of prosecuting the expatriates who were described as “victims of fraud”, as well as “rewarding” the suspect by allowing him to take advantage of retirement benefits.
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