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Archive for August 18th, 2008

Corruption, what corruption?

Posted by 7starsdubai on August 18, 2008


Corruption, what corruption? – Middle East Directory Zawya.com

There are generally three accepted kinds of corruption[1] that are standard in the world today, organised corruption which includes gangs and criminals, petty corruption which involves small amounts of money and business or political corruption which in the Gulf is yet to be officially recognised as a crime.

Some GCC countries have ranked quite well in the 2008 Transparency International survey, achieving scores that are not too far behind established democracies. In the latest report the GCC scores are Qatar 32nd, the UAE 34th, Bahrain 46th, Oman 53rd, Kuwait 60th and Saudi Arabia as the 79th least corrupt country[2]. Although it is not a surprise at first that the Gulf States with the highest rank in the list are Qatar and the UAE, what is a surprise is that they interestingly rank just after Israel (31st). What is wrong with that you ask? Quite a bit in fact. Israel is a country that is currently investigating its head of government for the purchase of a house below market value[3], in the GCC buying a house at favourable terms is quite frankly an advantage if not a reason to enter government.

Silver lining

The two GCC countries that have stood out recently in fighting corruption are Bahrain and Kuwait, the ones with the only active parliaments in the GCC. Not many countries in the GCC are able or willing to do what Bahrain’s brave Crown Prince Sheikh Salman did recently. In the autumn of 2007 he launched an anti-corruption campaign that shook the Kingdom. Officials from Aluminium Bahrain, Gulf Air and Arab Ship Building have been questioned or referred to the public persecution for crimes from pocketing commissions to misappropriation of funds. Batelco, the island’s pioneering Telecom Company came under scrutiny after it was accused of paying US$30 million to secure a telecom firm in Jordan, not the first Bahraini firm to be accused of corruption there[4] (. Such incidents have irked the Crown Prince so much so that he deliberately, and uncharacteristically for the GCC, took the route of an open exchange of letters with his father the King in order to secure the necessary power to root out corruption from the highest echelons of government. The Crown Prince vowed that the campaigned will “not spare any minister implicated in corruption”[5]. The Prime Minister’s son, a close cousin of the Crown Prince, was ousted from his position of head of Bahrain’s Airport Authority not too long after the letters were exchanged[6]. Subsequently a new law was introduced that obliges most ministers in Bahrain to report directly to the Crown Prince’s Economic Development Board, thereby bypassing the office of the Prime Minister. Kuwait has also shown courage in the field of fighting graft when in September 2007 a court slapped a life sentence on a former Undersecretary of Defense and fined him a staggering $72 million for corruption[7].

The other GCC states

The Saudi press has not been able to publish some of the more important scandals in the Kingdom, instead there were reports of 500 petty bribery cases in Riyadh in 2007[8]. In the UAE, a professor of administration in the Emirates University stated that if such international surveys as the above were being held across the country and not only in Dubai then the UAE would not have ranked so well because “corruption in the other emirates is higher”[9] in addition to other unprintable serious allegations. In Qatar two Agriculture Ministry officials were charged with embezzlement of funds totaling US$270 million in 2005 to build private villas and a residential complex but not much has been heard since[10].

Why is this important?

According to Dr Ahmad Belhasa, Chairman of the UAE Contractors Association the real estate industry is most prone to corruption in the GCC as there is “no accountability and no punishments to companies or individuals involved in corruption.”[11] As the Gulf states proudly announces the Trillion Dollar mark in terms of construction deals is it not surprising that in the biggest economies of the GCC no one is brought to account, charged or even investigated?

I wonder what Transparency International says to that.

Postcrpit: Since writing this article for MoneyWorks magazine in early April Deyaar has had a run of not so good news. The CEO was held for days on end while the stock continued to trade. Investors were left in the dark whereas the stock should have been suspended from trading for a few days atleast. Fortunately, there was no panic selling, unfortunately, we still don’t know what is happening weeks after the incident.


[11] Ibid citation 8

Posted in Dubai | Comments Off on Corruption, what corruption?

Corruption in Dubai – UAE lawyers welcome move

Posted by 7starsdubai on August 18, 2008


UAE lawyers welcome move
By Abbas Al Lawati, Staff ReporterPublished: August 17, 2008, 23:21

Dubai:

UAE lawyers are welcoming the move by Dubai to crack down on financial corruption in the government and private sectors. But they say that the process should not stop until corruption is rooted out at all levels.

The media office for His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued a strongly-worded statement on Sunday, promising to deal harshly with any officials accused of taking payoffs in deals or those who exploit their positions for illegal financial gain.

Abdul Hamid Al Kumaiti of Al Kumaiti Advocates said the crackdown was no surprise because there had been talk of it recently, adding that it started a stage where every entity could come under scrutiny.

“Twenty to 25 per cent of the cost of government projects globally is believed to go to payoffs. This is prevalent in the UAE too,” he said.
Al Kumaiti said that under-the-table payoffs to get business deals approved had become so prevalent in the UAE that they were now considered a business norm. “Companies would either have to pay or withdraw their bids for contracts,” he said.

He blamed the phenomenon on multiple positions held by some officials in various government sectors, and he also cited the lack of a law forcing them to disclose their assets.

Asked if high-level corruption in government entities was a new phenomenon, Al Kumaiti said that the statement amounted to an admission of the existence of financial corruption in Dubai, “not an announcement about a [recent] discovery of financial corruption.”
Monitoring mechanism

He called for the setting up of a mechanism to monitor corruption and called for a law requiring high-ranking officials to disclose their assets, and be held accountable for corruption.

I brought this up with an official at a forum recently but my question was totally ignored,” he said.

UAE lawyer Yousuf Hammad said that all cases should be treated individually, but he nonetheless hailed the crackdown by the government. He noted, however, that requiring all officials to disclose their assets would amount to suspecting each of wrongdoing, which wasn’t the case.

Potential investors often come asking us if there are any effective anti-corruption laws,” Hammad said. I tell them there are, but they haven’t been [enforced].

The problem is that businessmen who deal with those asking for bribes feel pressured to pay and don’t notify the authorities.”

Posted in Dubai | Comments Off on Corruption in Dubai – UAE lawyers welcome move

Dubai’s zero tolerance pledge on corruption – Banking & Finance – ArabianBusiness.com – Sent Using Google Toolbar

Posted by 7starsdubai on August 18, 2008


Dubai’s zero tolerance pledge on corruption – Banking & Finance – ArabianBusiness.com

The Government of Dubai will take strict and prompt action against all acts of corruption and bribery wherever they occur in the emirate, Dubai’s Public Prosecutor said on Sunday.

Commenting on the recent questioning of employees of listed and public companies on suspicion of exploiting their positions to make illegal profits, he said: “The government will continue to have a strict stance against all aspects of corruption and will take legal measures against violators.”

He said fighting corruption is at the top of the government’s priorities.

Dubai Government follows a transparent and clear policy on such issues. There are strict directives to have zero-tolerance towards all aspects of corruption, bribing and taking advantage of official positions.”

His comments came just days after Dubai mortgage lender Tamweel’s former chief executive Adel Al Shirawi and head of investments were named as part of an investigation for alleged wrongdoing.

And Nakheel, the government-owned developer of manmade islands in the shape of palm trees, said on Friday one of its employees was under investigation on suspicion of bribe-taking.

Earlier this year, investigations began into alleged irregularities by executives at Dubai Islamic Bank, the Gulf Arab state’s biggest Islamic bank by market value, and its affiliate real estate firm Deyaar.

The Public Prosecutor added that the results of ongoing investigations about the accused employees will be announced once they are complete.

“Any employee exploiting his position to make illegal profits will not have immunity. The strictness with which some violations that emerged in the recent past were dealt with, confirms the government’s commitment to maintaining the highest global standards in fighting corruption and enhancing its achievements in the economic, financial and legislative fields,” he said.

He added that corruption and bribery are some of the most important issues that obstruct development in the World.

“The government has created an ideal environment here, which is supported by a legal and legislative structure that depends on the best global practices.

“The government will continue this policy, which made it gain the confidence of business leaders throughout the region and the world. There will be no tolerance shown to anybody who tries to exploit his position to make illegal profits,” the Public Prosecutor added.

Meanwhile, Marwan Bin Ghalaita, chief executive of the Dubai Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA), said on Sunday that investigations into financial irregularities at property developer Nakheel and mortgage lender Tamweel are a sign that transparency in the real estate sector is improving.

“I think this is a good thing for the market,” Bin Ghalaita told radio station Dubai Eye.

He disagreed with this month’s Morgan Stanley report that claimed Dubai property prices could fall up to 10 percent in the next two years.

“The real estate market is very solid and the confidence is there,” he said.

The RERA head also said that companies need to educate their employees about the values and ethics of their business, as some of them come from countries where bribes are common in the industry and are seen as a form of commission. (Reuters)

Police arrest Adel Al Shirawi
UPDATE 2: Tamweel says it is unaware of investigation into dealings of former chief executive.

Nakheel exec in bribery scandal named
UPDATE 1: Media reports say general manager of sales being questioned by police.

Posted in Dubai | Comments Off on Dubai’s zero tolerance pledge on corruption – Banking & Finance – ArabianBusiness.com – Sent Using Google Toolbar

 
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