Tag Archives corruption

(Alleged) Corruption at BCCI

(Alleged) Corruption at BCCI

I don’t believe that the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry is in a good state. It hasn’t been looking after the business community for quite a while and to most businesses in Bahrain, it’s dead but somebody forgot to officially bury it.

To wit, what we hear from the BCCI is the constant chest thumping and false promises. Its board of directors seem to be more interested in scoring personal points, get on to travel gigs and do whatever possible to benefit themselves rather than their electorate. As a paying member for 27 years, I cannot remember a single instance where the Chamber has helped me or just paved the way for my business and others in a similar vein to success.

The Chamber has become irrelevant. It has no function to play within the business community. It is high time that its suffering be ended and it be put to rest. No new elections and no new blood can ever bring it back to its halcyon days. Those are just a memory. A blip on the horizon. And the future with its digital more agile economy doesn’t require it.

One reason for this stasis is its complete legal subservience to the government. The minister of commerce exercises oversight over its decision and nothing can be promulgated without his consent. That takes away its critical independence through which it can actually serve its electorate. If this fact alone doesn’t convince you, as a businessperson, to demand that it be closed down, then maybe you would be well served just to ignore it. This should be a primary goal of any block or person running for elections, but I fail to see this mentioned in any of their agendas, and if it’s there, they fail to outline how they’re going to regain that independence.

The other reason is that it is a(n allegedly) corrupt organisation. Some of its board members are said to be waist deep in this quagmire. And the board doesn’t seem to be interested enough to exercise its basic fiduciary responsibility to arrest this corruption, and hold those who are implicated to book. The government here is to blame too, as it has a decisive role to play and it seems to prefer to turn a blind eye. The public prosecutor should move and investigate these claims and do their job for the benefit of the whole society, not just businesses and businesspersons.

For example, here’s an audio electioneering clip allegedly done on behalf of one of a current board members who is standing for re-election, plainly offering bribes for votes. And he is just one. I wonder how many others are treading the same path. We will not know because no action, or even an investigation, appears to have taken place by the BCCI’s board.

We – as the business community – can’t be blamed to continue to hold the BCCI in contempt. One way for us to show this contempt is to forget about it, forget about its sham of elections and just get on with our work. Because the BCCI is not serious about doing the right thing, let alone looking after our interests. Its current structure is weak, its current board is by default supporting the alleged corruption by not taking action. The very least they could have done is suspend the person who has been implicated in this scandal while an independent investigation is conducted and the truth be unearthed. Transparently and professionally. Had they done that, at least they would have saved a little bit of face.

As to the current “blocks” who are so busy all of a sudden in their electioneering and over-sized promises – yes, even the cute Batman Movie Lot – they seem to all be conveniently forgetting the real importance of the Chamber’s independence. Rather than emphasising the issue of regaining the Chamber’s independence, they are bending over backwards to brush that issue under the carpet. So what – pray – are all of them really going to contribute to the advancement of businesses and the economy?

The BCCI will never augment our existence and it cannot and will not provide us with any platform off of which we can launch and maintain our success. We’ll continue to do that on our own. Thank you very much. Without any auspices of the defunct BCCI organisation.

Here. At least enjoy this little Batman skit.

blah blah blah blah blah blah….

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They’re the dark knights. The saviours. But wait! Where’s the Joker? It’s that salesperson who sold them this. Tell him – if you know him or her – that s/he can get a job with me immediately! What a stellar job! What this clip tells me is that this lot simply does not realise the gravity of the situation. They think that their comically superhero characters are enough to convince people to turn out for them. They seem to think that what we really need in this country are weightless knights who can come and save us from our situation by us shining their Batman logo on the night’s sky. Nice one.

Yeah right.

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Endemic Corruption, part deux

The 2009 Audit Report
A couple of days ago I went on about the endemic corruption beleaguering our government‘s organs. Today, with the Audit Bureau Report for 2009 being made public and being subjected to initial analysis by the press, I was wrong in choosing that title. I should have called it the Complete and Utter Collapse of the Government’s Ability to Run This Country instead. And the Audit Bureau’s report does nothing but confirm this fact.

Yalla. Time for either a mass resignation by the government – which is the honourable thing to do, a vote of no confidence by the parliament and kick them out, or the King to put them out to their engorged and well grassed pastures.

I don’t care whichever solution is eventually taken, as long as it’s just done so we can go forth and make something of our future rather than continue to see vast amounts of funds misappropriated, the majority (if not all) the government ministries being mismanaged and we continue to beat that old drum of hail this and hail that while the whole world continue to point and laugh at us.

You know what? Maybe that’s too much to ask – well it isn’t really but I recognize that my demands are completely unrealistic as they will never come to be realized though you and I know that doing anything less is just feeding the fallacy of everything is hunky dory. How about HM finds the top three offenders in that there report, fire them and investigate their mis-accumulated wealth and re-appropriate it to the state treasury?

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Huh? Has bin Rajab been cleared?

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Just saw this on today’s Al-Wasat:‬

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العاهل يستقبل عائلة بن رجب

استقبل عاهل البلاد جلالة الملك حمد بن عيسى آل خليفة بقصر الصافرية أمس عائلة بن رجب، وذلك للسلام على جلالته، وقد رحب عاهل البلاد بالجميع وتبادل معهم الأحاديث الودية.

وأكد خلال اللقاء أن مملكة البحرين حققت الكثير من الإنجازات في مختلف الميادين، وذلك بفضل عمل وعطاء أبناء الوطن ودور عائلات أهل البحرين الكرام وتكاتفهم لخدمة وطنهم.

وقد أعرب أفراد عائلة بن رجب عن شكرهم وامتنانهم لعاهل البلاد، داعين الله أن يحفظ جلالته.

وخلال المقابلة ألقى عيسى حسن بن رجب قصيدة شكر لعاهل البلاد نيابة عن أخيه محافظ الشمالية جعفر حسن عبدالرسول بن رجب بهذه المناسبة.
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Al-Wasat Newspaper – 3 Aug 2010

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‪Briefly, HM the King received the bin Rajab family who extended their wishes to HM and one of them read out some poetry in praise of His Majesty.

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‪Very strange. Because, that big guy sitting closest to His Majesty is none other than ex-minister Mansour bin Rajab who is supposedly under investigation and house arrest for corruption, money laundering and even purportedly assisting the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the bargain too. So seeing this news-piece and his personage in the presence of HM only suggests that he has been exonerated with the charges against him dropped!‬

‪It can only be perceived that he was not found guilty and he’s a free man. So what happened? Has bin Rajab’s name been cleared? Can he now take everyone who slandered him to court (as he likes to do!) Where’s the truth in all this?

An intriguing situation to be sure and I am mildly interested in how this drama will continue to unfold…

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Sitting minister arrested for corruption

Woke up this morning to this:

للمرة الأولى في البحرين
القبض على وزير بتهمة غسيل الأموال

علمت «الوقت» من مصادر خاصة أن جهاز الأمن الوطني قد أقدم يوم أمس الخميس ألقى القبض على احد الوزراء والتحقيق معه بتهمة غسيل الأموال.

وقالت المصادر إن الوزير قد تم استدعاؤه عصر أمس من قبل جهاز الأمن الوطني، حيث رافقته عناصر الجهاز من بيته إلى مكتبه الذي تم إخضاعه للتفتيش»، مشيرة إلى انه «تم الطلب منه استدعاء موظفيه الذين حضروا إلى مكتبه وتم التحفظ على أجهزة الهواتف النقالة الخاصة بهم».
وأوضحت المصادر أن «التحقيق مع الوزير تم أولا في مقر جهاز الأمن الوطني ثم تمت إحالته إلى قسم مكافحة الجرائم الاقتصادية التابعة للتحقيقات الجنائية بالعدلية، وباشرت عناصره التحقيق مع الوزير»، إلا أن المصادر لم تكشف عن تفاصيل أخرى تتعلق بحجم الأموال التي تم غسلها ومصادرها، كما لم تكشف عن عدد الذين تم التحفظ عليهم.

يشار إلى أنها المرة الأولى في البحرين التي تقوم فيها أجهزة الأمن والتحقيقات الجنائية بالتحقيق مع وزير لايزال على رأس عمله.
http://alwaqt.com/art.php?aid=202904

and from the GDN’s front page:
Official held for fraud

An official accused of running money laundering operations in Bahrain and abroad was arrested yesterday following investigations by the Economic Crimes Directorate. Interior Ministry assistant under-secretary for legal affairs Brigadier Rashid Bu Humood said the ministry discovered the fact early last year and closely monitored in secret the official’s activities in Bahrain and abroad. His contacts and meetings with his aides and parties he was dealing with abroad were subjected to strict control after taking all required legal measures. He has been referred to Public Prosecution.

Wanna guess who this minister is?

They don’t mention him in the pieces above of course, but according to various online forums it appears to be my friend Mansour bin Rajab!

Well this is a turn of events isn’t it? If it is indeed the Right Honourable Minister of course.

Messages?

Don’t know, but maybe it’s a combination of factors:

    1. the government is signaling that they’re serious (again) about combating corruption
    2. they want an improvement in their CPI
    3. the cookie jar is being depleted too fast
    4. same with the goat bank (Islamically correct form of a piggy bank)
    5. discovered this expeditious method of reducing staffing levels
    6. enacting the corruption article of the Labour Law saves termination fees

or any other number of factors.

Whatever it is, like the rest of Bahrain I’ll wait for clarifications and an outcome of this case, if any.

One thing I will guarantee you though: watch this situation being played with sectarian notes.

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What a surprise. The emperor is indeed naked.

Dubai, which until last week loomed tall – literally – as an enterprising, cosmopolitan, glitzy and happy antithesis to the Middle East’s economic stagnation, has now emerged as a sad monument to all that is ill about the pan-Arab economy, which includes more than a quarter-billion people but is smaller than Spain’s.

Read the full article here. But don’t expect much to really change without a real democracy answerable to the people being just a pipe dream. For now anyway.

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Corruption Perception Index 2009

gcc-cpi-ranking-2003-09

As far as Bahrain is concerned, the trend of this index is lacklustre, trending downward from 27 with a score of a 6.1 in 2003 to 46 this year with a score of 5.1. Regionally, we rank right in the middle at the moment being 4th behind Qatar, ranking 22 in the world – with a best score of the region of 7.0, the UAE which ranks 30th with 6.5 and Oman at 39 with a score of 5.5. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait bring up the rear with 63 (4.3) and 66 (4.1) respectively.

gcc-cpi

Although some might scoff at this as “it’s simply a perception of corruption, the methodologies used are worthy of much consideration. It’s clear that we have some work to do, and the only way we can actually do it is to not slap corrupt persons on the wrist and let them by, but get them to rot in jail for a while so that they understand the damage they have done to the country and its citizens.

We have many corruption cases in the judicial pipelines; from ALBA through to the latest news pieces of corrupt Tourism Department officials accepting bribes to turn a blind eye to nefarious practices in hotels and other “entertainment” venues, passing through to that bank manager who helped himself to a Lexus for a Dinar (US$2.65) and helped himself to a few hundred thousand dinars in the process too. The joke is, though, although he has been convicted and is supposed to spend some time in the slammer, a doctor’s certificate and undoubtedly some influence allowed him to stay at home due to his delicate health state.

The very same treatment was given to a 58-person killer. This worthy citizen has even been advertising environmentally friendly transport solutions while “convalescing”! How very touching.

The solution to these problems is simple of course: just apply the law. We probably have some of the best laws in the world, but that does not transcend them simply being on paper and never be implemented into reality.

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Shaking up BRTC

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The employees at the TV station are threatening a strike tomorrow and if that doesn’t get their demands, they’re threatening an en mass resignation. They’re not happy with the new BRTC CEO Ahmed Najem.

I suggest to our good friends at that illustrious institutions to forgo the first threat in their due process and just go directly to the second. I am sure that I can get another friend to come in with a pickup truck and transport the newly destitute to their various abodes, free of charge.

But destitute they aren’t. A little birdie tells me that quite a number of them became fat cats; suckling at that milch cow with abandon.

For instance, some of the production personnel have reportedly sprouted well-equipped home studios using pirated software on cheap enough computers where they habitually receive conveniently farmed out jobs in order for the poor souls to supplement their unsubstantial stipend.

Ahmed Najim, BRTC\'s new CEO
Ahmed Najim, BRTC's new CEO
They’ve apparently become quite innovative in surmounting the unusually high cost of acquisition and playback production equipment by utilising the station’s own; at the same time demonstrating their sheer technological advancement by simply shooting material then digitising it using the station’s own editing systems directly into external hard disks which they then take home to edit the program. When the time comes to lay their edited material back out to tape again, they simply bring back that external disk and output it through the TV’s expensive tape machines and Bob’s your uncle!

Other less technologically aware – but equally industrious – individuals won’t be crowded out at the trough. Those apparently simply farm out whole jobs to judiciously selected production and post-production houses for which their efforts would be amply rewarded.

So it doesn’t surprise me one iota to read the following in this morning’s Alwaqt newspaper:

علمت ”الوقت” أن عدداً من موظفي هيئة الإذاعة والتلفزيون يعتزمون تنظيم اعتصام صباح غد الاثنين وذلك احتجاجاً على قرارات الرئيس التنفيذي للهيئة أحمد نجم، وقال مصدر فضل عدم الكشف عن اسمه ”إن الاعتصام قائم. إلا إذا تم فتح قنوات للحوار، حيث يأتي هذا الاعتصام كحق طبيعي نمارسه للتعبير عن مواقفنا”.
وأضاف المصدر ”هناك امتعاض من الأسلوب الذي نعامل به، التلفزيون والإذاعة من صنع هؤلاء الموظفين الذين أمضوا حياتهم داخل أروقة الهيئة، وفي حال عدم استجابة المسؤولــين لنا، سنضطــر آسفين إلى تقديم استقالات جماعية في القريب العاجل”.

Alwaqt Newspaper

Who wouldn’t fight tooth and nail to keep a personal milch cow amilkin’?

Well done Ahmed Najem (and the minister who selected you for the job). Go forth and conquer. What a wonderful feeling it is to have a clean site unhindered by dead wood and avaricious dead-beats whose only reason to be in that edifice in the first place was to have known – or been related to – the right person!

It is high time that both Bahrain’s radio and television stations regain their senses and output something that we can both be proud of and want to watch of our own volition.

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Bahrain, a failed state?

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Bahrain unrest continues unabated in the absence of the political will to resolve basic issuesOnce at the vanguard of developing Gulf city-states, Bahrain has now lost that position to sheikdoms like Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as well as neighboring Qatar. Although Bahrain’s capital, Manama, has some of the glitz of other Gulf capitals, its early lead in development — achieved during the 1970s with the creation of a dry dock, an aluminum smelter, and offshore banking infrastructure — is no more. Similarly, political reforms appear stalled, with little or no progress made since the bicameral legislature was introduced in 2002. The 2006 elections were manipulated, if not rigged, to ensure that Shiite legislators did not win a majority. And members of the royal family still hold the majority of cabinet positions.

Perhaps most worrisome for Washington, the regime no longer seems to be exercising the canny balancing of political tensions that other Gulf rulers employ to ensure stability. Instead, Sunni-Shiite friction is being played out on the streets — never a good way of attracting foreign investors.
The Washington Institute – Small Island, Big Issues: Bahrain’s King Visits Washington

No comment.

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The Feds are on it now…

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And a minister has been named as allegedly implicated in the two billion US$ corruption case while in charge of ALBA over a period of 15 years or so.

This is highly intriguing and I’ll tell you why:

Although this is not the first corruption case in Bahrain, and I would venture to say that it won’t be the last either; but for decades we’ve known of corrupt government officials so much so that people didn’t bother calling them by their given names, but by an acquired alias: “Mr. 5%”, “Mr. 10%”, “Mr. 50%” and “Mr. Did They Do the Needful”.

Corruption has become the norm. Businessmen are said to actually factor in the funds they need to pay to oil the wheels of industry as a normal cost of doing business. It is no wonder that Bahrain’s reputation is less than stellar in the world community. It is this particular fact that chased and continues to chase foreign investment much more than the weekly nuisance skirmishes we too have gotten used to. Not that I condone those brain-sparks who think that they can resolve our problems by lighting fires to rubbish bins and throwing blazing tyres in the path of oncoming cars.

So what’s new in the ALBA corruption case then?

To me, it is the planting of the stake in the ground not only such a public manner, but loudly announcing that no one is going to be beyond the law – even if that someone is a minister, a member of the ruling family, or both, as is in this case. It is the willingness of the “defacto-government” to go all out and lodge a case in the United States’ courts utilising their own Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

If you are wondering what is the significance of this step, then you are not alone.

To me, it is manifold but chief amongst them would fit squarely into making bold and unequivocal political statements on which the future of this country rests.

Unlike Bahrain, cases such as this one illicits the right of full discovery by the plaintiff in the States. That is, ALCOA can not only put the Bahraini dirty laundry out for all to see, but is completely within its legal rights to ask for present and past associates of those lodging the case against it for full questioning, and they won’t care much for our dear parliamentary ways of doing things; to them, Parliamentary articles 145 and 146 – had they had them – would be quite plain and straightforward: bring out not only the minister to be questioned, but his whole known and invisible bank records and every other documentary evidence and associates to be scrutinised in full public view.

This of course will unearth a lot more muck. These corrupt practices do not happen in a vacuum, they have their own support infrastructure, which – if the case is left to take its own natural course – I would not be at all surprised if this whole government comes tumbling down due to the proceedings.

And you know what? No one can just ignore this and just keep things under the lid either; well, not unless the case is withdrawn and an out of court settlement is reached, now its not just a case of corruption brought on by a foreign company against an American company, that situation has been stopped as the US Department of Justice has launched its own investigation into the matter in a criminal case against Alcoa. If my understanding is correct, the case has taken a more serious turn now that not even the Bahraini government nor ALBA can stop it.

So we’re in for a wild ride which could result in a completely different government, new faces and not only a much better CPI rating, but much more importantly, it will go a long way into restoring the normal Bahraini citizen’s trust in his country and the new, young, fearless and vibrant leadership which is taking the bull by the horns.

This case has far more reaching repercussions than even the Bandargate scandal. This one promises a much more intensive overhaul to the machinery, and its about time too.

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