MANAMA // Bahrain's king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa, yesterday sacked the minister of state being investigated for running an alleged multimillion-dollar money-laundering scheme. The king issued a decree, which takes effect today, stating that Mansoor bin Rajab is relieved of his ministerial duties. The decree, the first in Bahrain's history to stem from corruption charges, will clear the way for the investigation into the minister and his aides to be stepped up, after they were temporarily detained and questioned last Thursday.
Mr bin Rajab and his office manager, whose offices and homes were raided the same day, both denied any involvement in the scheme. Mr bin Rajab told visitors to his weekly Friday open house he had not been charged with anything and said he was called in to answer questions about him and some of his staff, without elaborating. Mr bin Rajab also denied appearing in front of the public prosecutor, while his office manager said he was questioned by the prosecutor as a witness and not a suspect.
Mr bin Rajab had said on Friday he would be taking part in the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday but in the end he did not attend. The interior ministry released a statement last Thursday saying the arrest followed a year-long investigation, involving monitoring of Mr bin Rajab and his aides both in and outside Bahrain. Sources said western security agencies, including the French, had co-operated with Bahraini authorities in their investigations.
Local media say there have been other arrests across the Gulf, including in Kuwait and Dubai, and the network laundered money for drug-traffickers and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, something Bahraini officials have yet to deny. Most reports say the sum laundered exceeded US$12 million (Dh44m), though other estimates have put it as high as $80m. The head of the public prosecution, Nawaf Hamzah, last night dismissed much of the press reports as speculation, without elaborating, and said findings of the investigation will be released shortly.