Minister denies involvement in money-laundering scheme as report claims operations covered Bahrain, Kuwait, Dubai, Iran and Europe

March 20, 2010
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Bin Rajab at his majlis on Friday - Al Bilad

A Bahraini minister has denied involvement in a money-laundering scheme, saying that reports of his arrest and interrogation were not true and lacked credibility.

Addressing visitors to his weekly majlis (open house), Mansoor Bin Rajab, a state minister without portfolio, said that he had been called in by the interior ministry to answer questions about his ministry staff.

“I was called by the Criminal Investigations Directorate and not by the Public Prosecution and they asked me a few questions before I went back home,” Bin Rajab said. “They were very fine with me and treated me well. When I returned home, I resumed my daily routine and here I am opening my majlis for my regular visitors,” he said.

However, when pressed to say whether he would be attending the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, the minister said that it would be up to the country’s leaders to decide on the issue. He also denied a report that he felt uneasy during the questioning and that a nurse was rushed to his side, saying they were rumours. “You can look at me. I am in good condition and I never felt unwell,” he said.

According to Al Ayam daily, the minister was released on the grounds of his health.

Bin Rajab refused to comment on the status of the director of his office who was also questioned by the authorities on the alleged charges of money-laundering and which, according to reports, amounted to more than BD12 million. “I do not know anything about his questioning and you should ask him about what happened to him,” he said. The director said that he had been called in as a witness.

A media report said that the security authorities had asked the minister and his office head not to communicate with each other throughout the investigation.

According to Al Ayam daily, the director could be charged of money-laundering, covering money-laundering operations, cooperating with a foreign organization and divulging information to a foreign country. Money-laundering charges carry sentences of up to 15 years.

Quoting unnamed sources, Al Ayam said that the money-laundering operations covered Bahrain, Kuwait, Dubai, Iran and some European countries and that one woman has been arrested in Kuwait in relation with the scheme.

Bin Rajab, who was chain-smoking throughout his majlis meeting, refused to comment whether he had received any call from senior officials following the publication of the reports on his interrogation.

The minister was allegedly called in for questioning on Thursday evening and the interior ministry in a brief statement said that an official has been arrested on the charges of money-laundering operations inside Bahrain and abroad. It was the first time that an on-duty minister was detained in Bahrain’s history since its independence in 1971.

Brigadier Rashid Bu Humood, the ministry’s assistant undersecretary for legal affairs, said that the authorities first noticed the suspicious activities in early 2009 and kept monitoring the suspect’s activities, meetings and communication with his aides and with the contacts abroad.

But, Bin Rajab said that the statement was not necessarily about him, arguing that his name or rank was not mentioned.

“I am innocent and I went for the questioning because I believe that nobody is above the law. This is a country of law and institutions,” he said. “I also respect freedom of opinion and expression as well as freedom of the press, but slander, libel and defamation are not acceptable.”

Bin Rajab, 55, was a member of the Shura Council (upper chamber of the bicameral parliament) before he was appointed minister of municipalities and agriculture in December 2006, following the parliamentary elections. He kept the post until October 2008 when he was made Minister of State in a limited cabinet reshuffle.

Bahrain in 2001 became the first country in the Arabian Gulf to issue a law that laid down the “legal principles and framework to ensure the disclosure of any suspicious financial activity.”

Manama is the seat of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF) tasked with tackling the threat posed by money laundering and terrorist financing to countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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