Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Momentum builds in anti-corruption convictions: Ex Minister confesses to massive bribery

Well, well, well.

There must be a lot of very nervous important people in Muscat right now. The corruption trials are rolling out the "Guilty" verdicts faster than a shwarma shop on a Thursday night, and big people are being sentenced to real jail time. Oman doesn't do nice prisons.*

The latest to fall is a very tall tree indeed - Mohammed bin Nasir Al-Khusaibi was found guilty (he confessed and expressed remorse) of paying bribes worth US$1 million to the (now ex-)undersecretary of the Ministry of Transport and Communication for civil aviation, to win a contract for his company employer CCC- plus likely as local partner himself a big bonus - the first phase of the Muscat International Airport. Mr Al-Khusaibi was (briefly) a Minister, and before that a very powerful figure in the now disbanded but once omnipotent Ministry of National Economy. He's now bunking next to big abdullah the axe murder for 3 years.

Mohammed Al-Amri, who served as said undersecretary of the Ministry of Transport and Communication, was jailed for three years, fined 1.2 million rials and barred from public office for 30 years. The court also sentenced Fathi Alaaiddin, the managing director of aforementioned Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC Oman), to six months in jail and fined him 400,000 rials.

This February, Muscat’s Court of First Instance threw the book at the CEO of state-owned Oman Oil Company, Ahmad al-Wahaibi, a scion of one of the big families very close to the Sultan from the 1970s coup d'etat days, giving him jail sentences totaling 23 years after convicting him of accepting bribes, money laundering and abuse of office. It seems the palaces, sports cars, huge salary and the life of privilege wasn't enough, and young Al Wahaibi felt he needed a few million stashed away. Yanni, you know how it is.

Now, these are just the verdicts issued by Muscat's Court of First Instance, and are still subject to appeal, so who knows what might happen there. If the convictions and sentences are upheld in the first appeals, people will be really looking over their shoulders. Now that the prosecutors are getting successes and confessions, the list of others facing solid evidence of them pocketing the envelopes stuffed with rials will skyrocket as many of those implicated at all levels confess and in turn offer to turn State's Evidence. And Omani courts love a good confession.

As more people talk, and more cell phones and emails are searched, the evidence will mount and the anti-corruption net will inevitably be cast wider and wider, gaining more informants looking to save themselves by confession and implicating others. Say what you like about the internal security boys and girls, but give them this sort of trail to follow and they will be pretty damn efficient, if that's what the person giving the marching orders, er, orders.

And person who gives the ISS those orders is HM, directly. Don't think for a second that the ISS is like the Ministry of Manpower. They get first dibs on recruitment and get shit done when required, especially a special assignment for His Majesty. It is amazing how talkative people get when assisting the ISS and ROP with their enquiries.

Where will it end? Clearly the current crop of prosecutions has the full support of His Majesty. The public verdict against Mohammed bin Nasir Al-Khusaibi is unprecedented both here and abroad. The ripples from this conviction - of someone recently so very very close to absolute power - are causing waves in nearby shorelines: UAE, The Kingdom, Kuwait and Bahrain are all experiencing similar corruption issues, if anything writ much larger.

But His Majesty must be aware of the danger of this becoming a witch hunt driven solely through absolute power as Sultan and direct administrative and executive power too. Much like a run on a bank, if the herd of capital and talent feel that this is going to be 'everyone', or in other words, 'them' rather than someone else, then the herd will panic and stampede for the exits. There's a reason all those palaces on the coast have big ocean going boats in sheds beneath. And private jets. And bank accounts outside Switzerland, if they know whats good for them I guess! Most of these guys are running so much leverage and debt anyway, net capital employed allowing for depreciation over the years is probably 9/10s of fuck-all. So they can split guys. If it gets to the point when you are selectively culling people for relatively minor criminal acts everyone was doing as a matter of common knowledge just to do business, be careful. Yet right now, HM Sultan Qaboos, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and commander of Oman's Armed Services, Police and Internal Security services is sending a pretty damn crystal clear message. Por encourage les autresSo a few more heads are going to roll. A benign dictatorship may not be how things are being described in the prison exercise yard right now. Your view on the benign part may depend on your perspective, but I reckon 99% of Omanis and residents are more than happy to see a few more heads in the basket right now. Metaphorically speaking.

Email me with any tips. I'm back in the saddle for a while. Lets see where this goes.

* Note. The Americans a few years ago issued Oman a formal complaint at the state of their prison system and the conditions people were held in. When the Americans, people who run an international gulag of secret prisons and who imprison more % of their population than anyone else, are lecturing you on your prison service, you have a pretty shitty prison service. Perhaps the delay in the trials vs the 'Arab Spring' kickoff was not to assemble an independent prosecutors office and gather evidence, but to build the new VIP wing at the prison... wonder who the contractor was, Galfar or CCC? Just an idea chaps, better check that new wing for secret tunnels eh? Not that you could bribe anyone to do that, obviously.


  1. Glad to see you back, Mr.Dragon!

    Thank you for blogging about the corruption cases. May many more heads roll.

    I do wish you had mentioned the prior conviction of Juma Al Hanai. Though the papers and most commentary made him out to be a PDO employee, he was actually foisted upon PDO by the Ministry of finance, as "independent" chair of the PDO tender board.

    I can confirm that many, many bottles of celebratory booze were uncorked at my house, and at the houses of many others in Oman when his conviction and sentence was handed down. Many people suspected something fishy with the MOG and Ministry of Finance guys on the PDO tender board for like, YEARS. I was pregnant with pebbles when I first started hearing that contracts for future Oil and gas Development were being skewed (if not outright directed) towards unqualified bidders with a propensity for bribery.

    And speaking of corruption, whatever happened with the obviously corrupt worldcall boondoggle with omantel? Did anybody ever go to jail for that?

  2. UD, gladtameetya. It is good that heads are rolling, but I think it would be safe to assume that these heads are rolling in consultation with/with recommendation of the 'powers-that-be'. For while we may be in a Sultanate, there is a group of 8-10 people who are on a first-name basis and speed-dial basis with HM - and I believe nothing can touch them. Come to think of it, as always, let's follow the money - lets see who stands to gain the most from the current head-rolling. Is Omzest wanted to get into infratructure and civil works? Is Zubair wanting a bigger slice of the pie? Or are they going to be 'accidentally' in a position to make best use of the upcoming market scenario?

    Now I am turning into a conspiracy theorist!

    le sigh.


  3. Well, well, as long as some prominent figures don't turn up in prison, I don't take the whole process seriously ... but we will see ! Mohammed Nasser Al-Khusaiby --- as far as I remember --- was once married to an Al-Zawawi girl, a family very much liked by HM's mum and which she protected as long as she lived. Protection and 'wasta' from the past don't seem to be enough these days anymore. But as long as the super minister of 16 years and some of his larger circles don't show up in court, I don't take the whole stuff really seriously ... And rumours say that he is untouchable with all the knowledge he accumulated throughout the 16 years he was Oman's super minister ... corruption and bribes have been a fact in the Middle East for ages and everyone knew but some decided to ignore the facts for decades ?! Like the three monkeys: don't see, don't hear and don't talk...

  4. More temptation to get back blogging again.
    Trouble is that I would be talking through my proverbial as have not seen the place for so long now. They tell me its getting worse in a lazy-arsed, self-entitled, thick-fuck way with the local "wannabe gangsta" youth who were mid-teens when I left but are now 18 and looking around for a 325 rial a month "stay at home" fee.
    Recently spoke to a friend over there who pays three bread-heads to do just that, as having them on site was a danger to all concerned when they were present, which was about 10% of the time.

  5. JD, it would be really nice to have you back. I have still not removed you from the RSS feed! X)

    And sadly, being a small business owner for the past 13 years, it seems that 13 is going to be the unlucky number when I wrap up everything and head to other shores to try and setup shop. I have been trying to add to my workforce 5 carpenters for the past 2 years and bring in my Pakistani friend and his family on a visit to Oman. I get sent 'ya shabaab' trained by Khimji for the carpenters and my visit visa request has been rejected 7 times. How embarrassing when I invite my friend over, and when he accepts, I tell him, no you can;t come. Come to the UAE and I'll meet you there.



  6. Easy for all of you who don't live and work here anymore. Stop stirring the pot - some of us still enjoy our lives!!!

  7. Nice collection of facts.

    Do you have an original idea ?

  8. Sub', as always, well spotted. See latest post. Any more tips on that, please shoot me an email. Undercover(dot)drago.....

    Herman, yeah. Thing is, the ex-minister was in the inner circle of trust. He was one of the chosen. He was more powerful as undersecretary than his minister Sh. Macki. That's why it is such a big deal.

    Jet Driver. Well I never. Look. Stop whining and get blogging, k?

    anon2, yep. Its called internet x freedom x giving a shit. No apologies. I'll copy you on that memo.

    Thanks man. I'll add some rare and not well know facts later in the week if you want. Glad to see your dad's still paying your internet and cell phone bill. ;-)

  9. You are a class A Bellend... It must be nice to hide behind that cloak of anonymity? How about you declare your identity and then pop back for a holiday?

    No, I thought not...

  10. Nice anon comment critical of anon comments. And yes, it is very nice to hide behind a cloak of anonymity! The people who matter would have no problem finding me if they wanted to. And I have been back, and i wasn't arrested or given any hassle what so ever. So there.

  11. Hey UD

    Wahaibi's off the hook for now.
    New trial and new judges (better ones!) slated for later this year.




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