Govt probes alleged graft in French helicopter deal

MPs hail Kuwait’s stance on Jerusalem, discuss reconciliation

KUWAIT: National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem bangs the gavel during a session yesterday. — Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: The government has ordered an investigation into a $1.1 billion deal to buy 30 military helicopters from France, a minister said yesterday, after reports of alleged kickbacks. Kuwait agreed to buy the Airbus Caracal helicopters for one billion euros ($1.1 billion) in Aug 2016 as part of a package of deals between the two countries worth €2.5 billion.

“It was decided to refer the Caracal helicopters deal to the Public Anti-Corruption Authority to investigate it and take all relevant measures,” said Anas Al-Saleh, the government spokesman and state minister for Cabinet affairs. The probe was ordered by HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah, the minister said, quoted by the official KUNA news agency. “With regards to what has been raised in a local daily today… about the Caracal deal, it was also decided to refer the same issue to the Audit Bureau to scrutinize all data, documents and procedures of the deal,” he added.

The Audit Bureau was told to submit its findings to the Cabinet as soon as possible. The government move came after opposition lawmaker Mubarak Al-Hajraf raised the issue in parliament yesterday and demanded an investigation. He based his arguments on a report by Al-Rai newspaper which cited an article in the French Marianne magazine which said that a middleman had demanded €60 million from Airbus in commission.

Meanwhile, MPs yesterday voiced their pride over the government’s stance toward the recent US move on Jerusalem. They praised HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s reiteration of Kuwait’s historical stance during the Islamic summit held in Istanbul last week. The Assembly yesterday resumed discussions on US President Donald Trump’s decision on Dec 6 recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and giving orders to begin preparations to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

Following the discussions, the parliament approved a host of recommendations on Jerusalem, which expressed the Kuwaiti people’s stance toward the issue and stressed the fact that Jerusalem is the “eternal capital of Palestine”. The MPs recommended speeding up steps for the formation of a parliamentary committee to support the Palestinians and other afflicted people. They also called upon the government, through embassies and representation offices, to continue denunciation and opposition of the US decision.

In addition, the government has been urged to begin executive procedures to realize a full recognition of the state of Palestine, which must have full representation in all the international organizations. The MPs affirmed that Jerusalem is a pivotal and major UN, Arab and Muslim issue. Denouncing the US decision, they said that Kuwait has been embracing the Palestinian struggle and will continue support of the cause. The legislators lauded National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem’s efforts and adoption of the Jerusalem issue.

Also during yesterday’s session, MPs debated the issue of national reconciliation and called for establishing a government agency for crises and catastrophes. The Assembly unanimously called for issuing legislation for emergencies, and for forming a temporary committee to follow up with the government’s preparations for crises.

The lawmakers called on the government to prepare a full formula for reconciliation and for the Assembly to work out and pass legislation for national reconciliation. They also recommended to establish a media outlet to focus and work for consolidating national unity.

The debate was called by opposition MPs to debate the need for national reconciliation after three MPs were handed jail terms along with over 60 opposition activists for storming the Assembly. MP Ali Al-Deqbasi called for the “need to open a new page and overcome all our crises and disputes”. He called on the interior minister to crack down on all those who undermine national unity. He also called for a pardon for the jailed activists and said that Kuwait is passing through extraordinary conditions and all must unite.

MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri said the Kuwaiti people are solidly behind the ruling family and accused certain quarters of trying to creating a dispute between the people and the ruling family. MP Mohammad Al-Dallal questioned what has been done to face the dangers like the ones seen in Qatar, in a reference to its blockade. He said national reconciliation has become a necessity because “some people are still living in the past”.

MP Khaled Al-Otaibi said that there was no criminal intent among those who entered the Assembly building. He hoped that the court of cassation will correct the jail terms against the activists and called for an amnesty for them.

Speaking from the seat of MP Jamaan Al-Harbash, who is in jail, MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari said for the national reconciliation to happen, members of the ruling family must end their quarrels and the government must reconcile with the law and stop sending political activists to jail. MP Omar Al-Tabtabaei stressed on the need for reconciliation and warned that the infighting is destructive for Kuwait.

By B Izzak and Agencies

This article was published on 20/12/2017