Report: Fugitive Saudi official misspent $11b in government funds

Abu Dhabi: Fugitive Saad Al Jabri, a former top Saudi official, and a group of men he led while he was working at Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, misspent $11 billion (Dh40.45 billion) in government funds, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

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Sources in the United States intelligence agencies, who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, said Al Jabri, currently on the run in Canada, ran a special Interior Ministry fund that was focused on high-level counter-terrorism efforts. The paper said he had misspent $11 billion over 17 years to pay himself, his family and acquaintances in bonuses.

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“Al Jabri, a 61-year-old with a doctorate in computer science, was the virtual No 2 in the Saudi Interior Ministry, which was run for years by Mohammed bin Nayef. Al Jabri ran a special ministry fund that mixed government spending on high-priority antiterrorism efforts with bonuses for himself and others, according to documents reviewed by the Journal and interviews with Saudi officials and Al Jabri’s confidants,” the WSJ report read.

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“In the 17 years he oversaw the fund, $19.7 billion flowed through it. The Saudi government claims $11 billion was spent improperly through overpayments on contracts or was diverted to destinations, including overseas bank accounts controlled by Al Jabri, his family and his associates, including Mohammed bin Nayef,” the report added.

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Documents seen by the WSJ and corroborated by corporate filings in Saudi Arabia showed that the funds originating from the special unit was funnelled through a company called Technology Control Co, which was funded by the ministry itself but also owned at times by Al Jabri’s brother, his nephew and two close associates.

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The WSJ report laid out how Technology Control Co had channelled money and at times overcharged the Saudi Arabian government, in turn making undue profits.

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“Technology Control was transferred to the government. Saudi investigators discovered that the Interior Ministry paid the company more than $11,000 apiece for 2,000 secure landline and mobile phones that cost $500 to make, according to people familiar with the investigation. The equipment was later discarded because it didn’t work well,” the WSJ reported, citing people familiar with the investigation from Saudi Arabia.

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Illegal transactions

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According to WSJ, a Saudi government spokesman said that the government does not comment on existing investigations. Saudi officials said, according to the American newspaper, that they are trying to bring Al Jabri to justice as part of the campaign being implemented by Riyadh to combat corruption.

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The newspaper pointed out that a Saudi official said that such transactions are illegal and considered theft from the public treasury. He added, “The flow of money differs from gifts to bureaucrats from the personal wealth of members of the ruling family, which was appropriate and ongoing today in the country.”

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According to the newspaper, the Al Jabri Fund was created by the late King Abdullah to eliminate local terrorism after the September 11 attacks.

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