DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (AP) – A Kuwaiti court on Tuesday acquitted two former ministers and their co-defendants of the corruption charges they faced in an explosive case that tarnished the government and was widely seen as a test of accountability.
The charges against Kuwait’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak Al Sabah and his ally, former Interior Minister Sheikh Khalid al-Jarrah Al Sabah, along with other officials, concerned the embezzlement of USD790 million that had gone missing from a military aid fund years ago.
The judge had placed the case under a gag order and the evidence presented in trial remains unknown to the public. Still, the past year of twists and turns in what became known as the “army fund case” garnered local headlines and transfixed much of the country, raising hopes of a reckoning in the Gulf Arab state about endemic government corruption that long has hurt public trust.
In the fall of 2019, Kuwait’s former defence minister pressed for an investigation into the missing millions, triggering the downfall of the government when ministers refused to stand for questioning in Parliament. Other scandals entrapping Kuwaiti officials that later came to light have further damaged the country’s reputation, including a scheme to loot billions of dollars from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.
In an unprecedented move last year, Kuwait’s court ordered the two former ministers and royal family members, Sheikh Jaber and Sheikh Khalid, detained pending trial.
But the ministerial court on Tuesday ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against the officials, clearing them of all charges. The defendants’ legal team celebrated the acquittal.
Many Kuwaitis saw the decision as an unsurprising yet disappointing example of their country’s faltering graft prosecutions.
Activists on social media said the acquittal made a mockery of the government’s highly publicised push to root out corruption.
“We don’t know where the money that was stolen in the army fund went, and many other billions missing with it,” tweeted outspoken Kuwaiti opposition figure Bader al-Dahoum.