Under fire minister misses weekly cabinet as mystery about his money-laundering case deepens

March 21, 2010
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The brief detention of a Bahraini minister allegedly on charges of money-laundering is turning into “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” amid mounting speculations and clashing news about the case.

In Manama, Mansoor Bin Rajab, the Minister of State, did not attend on Sunday the weekly “meet the people” gathering hosted by the prime minister and which he regularly attended.

Bin Rajab did not attend the ensuing cabinet meeting, a fact that was quickly seen as an indication of his involvement in the money-laundering scheme as initially announced.

The session would have been his first official public appearance since he was allowed to go home following his investigation on Thursday evening.

Al Ayam daily said that the minister who had been released on the grounds of his health has been barred from travelling and that his financial assets had been frozen pending the investigations. All his aides have also been barred from traveling, the paper said.

On Friday, news of Bin Rajab’s arrest stunned Bahrain, even though the interior ministry in its brief statement carried by the local media referred to an official being detained in relation with a money-laundering scheme.   

Online forums quickly identified the official as minister of state and former minister of agriculture and municipalities Mansoor Bin Rajab.

However, in a new twist, Bin Rajab opened his majlis (public house) on Fridya evening and told his visitors that he was innocent and that he had never been held or interrogated.

“I was summoned by the interior ministry to answer queries about my staff. I am innocent and in good health,” 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.”

Earlier on the day, reports said that the money-laundering scheme in which he was involved spanned several countries and that he and some of his staff had been tailed since early 2009.

Figures about the amount in the international operations ranged, according to local newspapers, between BD 12 million and BD80 million.

In Kuwait, media reports also clashed about a claim by Bahraini daily Al Ayam newspaper that a Kuwaiti woman involved in the scheme had been arrested in connection with the case.

Al Qabas reported that “the security authorities were following closely information about the possible involvement of a Kuwaiti woman in the money-laundering operations for the benefit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.”

According to the paper, unnamed “knowledgeable sources” said that the Bahraini minister had revealed the existence of “a VIP Kuwaiti woman” as member of the network. Other sources said that the woman had been arrested, the paper said.

However, Al Anba daily said that “Kuwaiti security sources have denied media reports that a Kuwaiti woman had been arrested for her role in a money-laundering scheme in which a senior Bahraini official was involved.”

“No Kuwaiti woman has been arrested in relation with the case,” the paper said, quoting security sources.

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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