Bahrain imposes gag on media reporting former minister’s money-laundering case

March 26, 2010
By

Bahrain’s public prosecutor has imposed a gag order on media reporting on the money-laundering scheme unveiled last week and in which a former state minister is allegedly involved.

The gag was issued on Thursday evening as Bin Rajab and his legal team were at the third session of grueling interrogations on his alleged role and links in the operations that seemingly spanned several countries and involved many people from various nationalities.

The case was revealed one week ago by the interior ministry in a statement that said that a Bahraini official had been arrested in connection with money-laundering operations and that the official’s activities had been monitored since early 2009.

The ministry did not name the official, but within hours online forums revealed that he was Mansoor Bin Rajab, the former agriculture and municipalities minister and subsequently state minister without portfolio.

Bin Rajab who was released opened his majlis (open house) on Friday and told his visitors that he was innocent and that his name would be cleared quickly. He said that he was leading a normal life and that he would resume his duties after the weekend.

However, Bin Rajab did not take part in the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, fuelling speculation that he under investigation.

On Sunday evening, he was sacked by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa as state minister with immediate effect. The dismissal was understood in Bahrain as a green light to carry on with the investigation. Under the Bahraini constitution, ministers are appointed and dismissed by the king and, unlike members of parliament, have no immunity.

Bin Rajab, who had a five member legal team present with him, was interrogated on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening and would be quizzed once more on Sunday. His lawyers said that the interrogations could last ten days.

The former minister throughout the investigation denied any involvement in the money-laundering operations and claimed that he was innocent. At one time, his lawyers said that they wanted the prosecutor to summon a senior official, whose name or position they did not wish to divulge to the people, for testimony.

Bin Rajab is the first minister in the Arabian Gulf to be prosecuted for alleged criminal activities while still in office. His arrest, sacking and interrogations sparked a media frenzy in Bahrain, Kuwait and other Arab counties and the widespread dissemination of reports, quoting local and foreign sources, that incriminated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Lebanon’s Hizbullah, and plot characters mainly from Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt and Lebanon.

The public prosecutor said that there had been inaccurate and speculative reporting by the media and that the gag had become a necessity to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of the investigation.

The former ministers’ lawyers, ostensibly pleased with the gag, said they had requested the ban on the first day of investigation. They have been repeatedly saying that their client was innocent and that there no solid evidence against him.

         

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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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