Jordan launches nationwide privatisation corruption probe

Arab World Materials 15 January 2013 05:39 (UTC +04:00)

The Jordanian government on Monday ordered a review of the country's privatization programme following claims of widespread corruption in the sale of state-owned industries, dpa reported.

Jordanian Premier Abdullah Ensour formed a Privatization Evaluation Committee - a panel of economists, former officials and representatives of the finance sector - tasked with reviewing the country's two-decade-old privatization process.

The six-man panel, called for by King Abdullah in October, will spend the next six months determining whether Amman sold various state-owned industries at fair prices. It will also evaluate the level of transparency in the process.

The move comes less than two weeks after the state prosecutor referred the monarch's uncle to the court for alleged corruption in the privatization of the country's phosphates company.

In late December, the country's Anti-Corruption Commission charged Walid Al Kurdi, husband of Princess Basma, the king's aunt, with illegal gains during his tenure as chief executive of the state-owned Jordan Phosphates Mining Company.

The commission implicated Kurdi in the signing of a series of maritime contracts with a foreign company shortly after the company's privatization in 2006 at prices more than 40 million dollars above market rate.

In the probe, the commission also found that 70 per cent of the company's shipping contracts were signed to a second firm owned by Kurdi.

Alleged corruption in the country's privatization programme has been a core grievance of Jordan's protest movement, with activists accusing current and former officials of making millions of dollars in illegal gains from the sale of state-owned industries.

The issue of privatization has spurred weekly protests in southern Jordan, where residents claim post-privatization downsizing cost residents thousands of jobs.

In October, King Abdullah instructed Ensour to oversee a review of the privatization programme in order to restore faith in the process, which officials say was necessary to avert a wider financial crisis.