Defense accuses Interior of embezzlement

Belligerence and squabbling that have been the hallmarks of parliamentary life in Kuwait for the last six decades took a new turn for the worse, with infighting within the Cabinet spilling out into the open on Sunday.

First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah has made the unprecedented move of accusing his cabinet colleague and fellow royal family member, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Khaled Al Jarrah Al Sabah, of involvement in an embezzlement case.

The accusation surfaced just two days after Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah tendered the Cabinet’s resignation to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and was ordered to continue as head of a caretaker cabinet. Infighting within the Cabinet was alleged to be the main reason behind the cabinet tendering its resignation. In addition, lawmakers had submitted no-confidence motions in parliament against two ministers, including the interior minister.

The accusation against Sheikh Khaled go back to the period 2013 to 2016, when he was the defense minister. In a statement posted on the army’s official Twitter account, Sheikh Nasser said he had discovered that KD240 million had been embezzled from the army fund during the period that Sheikh Khaled headed the ministry.

Sheikh Nasser said that he had earlier referred the matter to His Highness the Prime Minister and had stopped attending cabinet meetings while waiting for appropriate action to be taken. He noted that the prime minister eventually responded by setting up an investigation committee to probe the alleged embezzlement.

He added that finding the prime minister’s response unsatisfactory, he had referred Sheikh Khaled along with five top defense ministry officials to the public prosecution for further investigation. The defense minister also said the resignation of the Cabinet was not to give time to allow reshuffling the Cabinet but to avoid answering questions over the graft in the army fund.

In response to the tweet, Sheikh Khaled said that he felt “great pain over the leaks on social media that contained unfounded and unsubstantiated accusations that undermined his reputation and the image of his family.” Adding that “loyal Kuwaitis” do not do so, the interior minister stressed that he had not changed the goals and objectives of the army fund when he was defense minister. He also categorically denied that he had committed any financial violation regarding the fund.

Sheikh Khaled emphasized that he was fully prepared to stand trial before the Kuwaiti judiciary to prove his innocence to the political leadership and to the Kuwaiti people. He criticized Sheikh Nasser for leaking confidential correspondence in the public domain, while at the same time failing to publish the response he received from Sheikh Khaled.

The interior minister also accused the defense minister of attempting to reap political capital by deliberately failing to reveal the full facts to the Kuwaiti people and choosing to raise the issue, and refer it to the public prosecution, only after the resignation of the Cabinet, “which indicates political ambitions” of the defense minister.

Meanwhile, Islamist MP Mohammad Hayef called yesterday for dissolving the National Assembly and holding snap polls because the country could be facing another graft scandal, bigger than that of 2011, and “this requires a new National Assembly”.

The question, “A new National Assembly, to do what?” was left hanging in the air.