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MPs demand 24 prosecutions over Dow deal – Nod to juvenile draft law

National Assembly members seen in Wednesday’s session of Parliament.
National Assembly members seen in Wednesday’s session of Parliament.

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 2: Kuwaiti MPs called on the government Wednesday to refer 24 ex-oil officials to the Public Prosecutor over a scrapped deal with US firm Dow Chemical that resulted in a $2.2 billion fine. A parliamentary probe report charged the officials, including two former oil ministers and ex-top executives, of squandering public funds and making illegal profits.

Kuwait and US petrochemicals giant Dow Chemical signed a $17.4-billion joint venture in 2008 but the emirate unilaterally scrapped the deal in December the same year due to a political dispute between the government and Parliament. The International Chamber of Commerce, acting as an arbitrator, ordered Kuwait to pay a penalty of $2.2 billion for scrapping the deal.

The government paid the fine in May 2013 although Parliament had warned against making the payment before conducting a probe. State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah told Parliament the government will refer the parliamentary investigation to court for legal action. During the debate, several MPs criticised the parliamentary investigation as “unfair, biased and politically-motivated” for not including a large number of former and current top officials who were linked to the issue.

MPAhmad Al-Azemi said members of the Supreme Petroleum Council must also be charged because they approved the deal and its cancellation. MP Mohammad Tana described the fine as “the robbery of the century” and claimed the payment was deliberately rushed for selfish interests. He also accused the government of not taking any action to recover the funds.

Islamist MP Hamdan al-Azemi said the report failed to interrogate the senior officials who took the decisions, in a reference to the Cabinet.

The Parliament, meanwhile, approved the Juvenile Draft Law in its second reading with 29 votes in favor, four against and two abstentions. One of the most important amendments to the draft law is that of Article 67 which prohibits newspapers, electronic, visual and audio media platforms from publishing information on juvenile cases such as the names of the accused or their photos before and during the trial or after the announcement of the verdict. The draft law allows the publication of the summary of judgment provided the name of the concerned juvenile is not mentioned and his photograph is not published. Those found to have violated this article will be fined not less than KD 1,000 and not more than KD 5,000.

The Legislative and Legal Affairs Committee had earlier explained that the aim is to issue an integrated law for juveniles to keep pace with developments in juvenile legislation and adopt the advanced principles espoused by the international community in dealing with juveniles involved in crimes.

It also stressed in its report the need to focus on social and educational intervention before considering penalties. The committee disclosed one of the significant provisions of the draft law is defining the age of juveniles as, “Every person who is not over 16 years old,” while the definition in the existing law is: “Every male or female who has not reached 18 years old.”

Article Two states that a child who is below seven years old at the time he committed a crime shall not be held criminally responsible. The draft law also stipulates referral of all pending cases to the Juvenile Court in accordance with this law and Law No. 3/1983 on the jurisdiction of juvenile courts while the Appeals and Cassation courts should continue looking into petitions submitted to them before working on the provisions of this law.

They should be committed to apply the law in the best interest of juveniles. MP Ahmed Lari’s recommendation to prohibit juveniles from going to suspicious places, as well as watching pornographic and violent films, was also approved during the session.

Furthermore, the Parliament approved in the first and second readings nine government bills on international agreements as follows:

■ Agreement to amend the convention on offenses and certain acts committed onboard the aircraft

■ Memorandum of Understanding between the government of Kuwait and the United Nations Development Programme

■ Commercial maritime transport agreement between Kuwait and Turkey

■ Arrangements for the establishment of support and logistic operations between Kuwait — represented by the Ministry of Defense, and Canada — represented by its Ministry of National Defense and Canadian Force

■ Convention on the establishment of the Arab Civil Aviation

■ Agreements between the governments of the State of Kuwait and Egypt to avoid double taxation and prevent tax evasion on income

■ Cooperative Agreement for Arab States in Asia for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (ARASIA)

■ Agreement between the governments of the State of Kuwait and the United States to improve international tax compliance and the application of Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)

■ Unified anti-dumping, countervailing and preventive measures of the Gulf Cooperation Council. After the discussion, First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al- Sabah expressed his gratitude to the National Assembly for endorsing the international agreements signed by the State of Kuwait.

He pointed out this reflects the keenness of Kuwait to strengthen cooperation between Gulf, Arab and other countries within the agreed constitutional frameworks. Parliament Speaker Marzouq Al- Ghanim adjourned the session until Dec 15, 2015.

By Abubakar A. Ibrahim Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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