Defense, interior ministers in public row over alleged graft

Sheikh Khaled outraged after Sheikh Nasser refers him to prosecution

Sheikh Nasser

KUWAIT: In a rare event, the defense and interior ministers clashed in public yesterday by issuing statements attacking each other. The clash came just two days after the government resigned over alleged infighting among its members and after lawmakers filed no-confidence motions against two ministers following grillings, one of them against the interior minister.

Interior Minister Sheikh Khaled Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah was the defense minister between 2013 and 2016 and became interior minister after the appointment of Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in late 2017 as defense minister. In his statement posted on the army’s Twitter account, Sheikh Nasser said he referred discovered embezzlements of KD 240 million from the Kuwaiti army fund when Sheikh Khaled was the minister.
Sheikh Nasser also said he has referred to the public prosecution Sheikh Khaled himself and five top defense ministry officials over the alleged embezzlements. He said he had asked the prime minister to take action against the embezzlements and that he stopped attending meetings of the Cabinet until the action was taken.

He said Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Muabrak Al-Sabah eventually responded by setting an investigation committee to probe the allegations. Sheikh Nasser however said this was not satisfactory to him and accordingly sent the issue to the public prosecution. 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.

The interior minister lashed back by saying that he had 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 “loyal Kuwaitis” do not do so. The minister insisted that he did not change the goals and objectives of the army fund when he was defense minister. He also categorically denied that he committed any financial violation regarding the fund.

Sheikh Khaled

Sheikh Khaled said he is fully ready to stand trial in the Kuwaiti judiciary to prove his innocence for the political leadership and for the Kuwaiti people. He criticized the defense minister, accusing him of leaking confidential correspondence and failing to release the response he got to implicate him (Sheikh Khaled). The interior minister accused the defense minister of deliberately failing to reveal the full facts to the Kuwaiti people and choosing this time to raise the issue and refer it to the public prosecution after the resignation of the Cabinet, “which indicates political ambitions”.

The clash of the two ministers in public is almost unprecedented in Kuwait’s history and especially between two members of the ruling family, indicating the extent of the political crisis that the country is facing.
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”. HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah on Thursday had accepted the resignation of the Cabinet and asked the premier to continue as a caretaker PM until the new Cabinet is formed.

By B Izzak