MP Adel Al-Damkhi

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Two opposition lawmakers said yesterday they will file to grill the defense minister if Kuwait takes delivery of a number of Caracal military helicopters without making sure they have been technically tested. MP Adel Al-Damkhi said the ministry of defense promised the National Assemblyís budget committee to issue a statement to clarify the ministryís position on the controversial $1.2 billion deal, which is already under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Authority and the Audit Bureau.

In Aug 2016, the defense ministry signed a deal with Airbus helicopters to purchase 30 Caracal military helicopters, 24 for the air force and the remaining six for the National Guard. In Aug 2018, former prime minister HH Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah ordered that the deal be probed by the Anti-Corruption Authority and the Audit Bureau after a Lebanese middleman demanded commissions worth Ä71 million for the deal from the manufacturer. The deal came to the limelight again when the first two choppers for delivery to Kuwait encountered some technical problems and had to be re-examined.

Damkhi said yesterday that while discussing the defense ministry budget at the assembly budgets committee, they came across a letter from a senior defense ministry commander asking the concerned department to take delivery of six ready Caracal helicopters from the manufacturer. The lawmaker said the letter clearly stated that the technical problem with the first two helicopters does not prevent the ministry from receiving the six new aircraft.

Damkhi said that he told the ministry officials that more technical tests were needed before taking delivery of the new Caracals, otherwise any technical problem could pose a danger to Kuwaiti pilots. He said that it was reported that one of the pilots who tested one of the two Caracals died after returning to his hotel room, adding that the defense ministry said they were told he died of natural causes. He did not reveal his nationality. The lawmaker said the ministry promised to issue a detailed statement explaining its position today, adding that unless the ministry clarifies its position and makes certain that no delivery will be taken before additional technical examinations, he will file to grill the minister.

MP Al-Humaidi Al-Subaei, who was among the first to speak about technical problems in the first two helicopters in December, said he will file to grill the defense minister if any technical problem is found in Caracal helicopters that Kuwait is scheduled to receive in early March. He said that he learned that Kuwaiti officers have been assigned to travel to France to receive some of the Caracals and will return in early March, adding that in case any technical problem is found, it will mean an immediate grilling of the defense minister.