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Heavy fines in funds scam

KUWAIT CITY, March 20: The Court of Cassation overturned the verdict issued by the Ministerial Court against former senior health officials who were accused of embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds in a contract of the Ministry of Health.

The court instead settled at imposing a fine of KD 20,000 each on the defendants. According to the case file, the Ministerial Court previously sentenced the defendants, namely former minister of Health Dr. Ali Al- Obaidi, two former undersecretaries in the same ministry Dr Khalid Al- Sahlawi and Dr Mahmoud Abdul Hadi, and an official of an American company, to seven-year imprisonment with hard labor and payment of KD 10,000 for suspending the execution of the sentence.

The court also ordered the removal of the Kuwaiti officials from their government positions and the deportation of the fourth defendant after serving the term. The defendants were also ordered to repay $ 81 million and pay a fine that is double that amount. In addition, the court exonerated Dr Al-Obaidi and others, including a former assistant undersecretary and a former director, in a second case wherein they were accused of making illicit gains in a medicine sale contract to the ministry.

It is worth mentioning that the former minister Dr Al-Obaidi is the first minister in the country to be referred to the court, let alone being convicted, after he was referred by the committee that was formed to fact-find the accusations leveled against the ex-minister. It also referred to the court the former undersecretary of Ministry of Health Khalid Al- Sahlawi, former assistant undersecretary Mahmoud Abdul-Hadi and the manager of a foreign company.

They were released on bail worth KD 3,000 each and banned from travelling. According to sources, the committee questioned the former minister and officials about hiring an insurance company to play the role of mediator, complete all procedures, and fix appointments for patients. For this role, the company received amounts exceeding tens of millions. The committee obtained the statements of the Ministry of Health and State Audit Bureau in this regard as well as the amount statement, and it studied the documents relating to the matter.

By Jaber Al-Hamoud Al-Seyassah Staff

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