Govt officials on trial for corruption in farm deal
Manama, January 27, 2014
Two senior government officials are on trial for corruption after allegedly profiting from a scheme designed to support young Bahraini farmers.
One of them, aged 54, allegedly distributed land earmarked for the scheme to the men's relatives and friends - illegally bypassing the tender process altogether, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The beneficiaries obtained licences to farm the land even though they were not qualified, according to prosecutors.
They claim he also handed each beneficiary BD10,000 ($25,974) in financial support, which was originally made available for the Hamala Young Farmers Project by Tamkeen - an organisation set up to support Bahraini enterprises and provide training to the local workforce.
The 54-year-old is also accused of embezzling BD33,800 from the scheme between 2011 and 2012, as well as helping his co-defendant steal BD11,310.
He is now standing trial for fraud, forgery, destroying receipts, embezzlement and issuing forged certificates.
Meanwhile, his 52-year-old co-defendant is accused of acting as an accomplice and also forcing beneficiaries, who took over the farms, to use a single contractor for construction.
In addition, he allegedly received financial support from a bank to construct his farm illegally.
The defendants are also accused of selling BD35,000 worth of farm equipment belonging to the government and illegally distributing livestock and palm trees.
Both of them appeared in the High Criminal Court yesterday to plead not guilty.
It is understood neither of them is currently being held in police custody.
"The Hamala project for young farmers was supposed to be handled by a team of diverse specialities, but the two men (suspects) ended up taking over the project," one of the men's government colleagues told prosecutors.
"He (the 54-year-old) then leased the lands to people who did not match the criteria and did not deserve the farms.
"The Hamala project for young farmers was set up fairly to provide the right farmers with land.
"However, they (the defendants) took advantage of the project for their own benefit and committed criminal offences.
"Even though it was not the second suspect's job to be part of this project, he helped him (the 54-year-old) commit the crimes.
"He forced people to choose a contractor for the lands, without providing them freedom of choice."
The trial was yesterday adjourned until February 27 for review. The GDN earlier reported that Tamkeen allocated BD5.93 million to support 600 farmers. - TradeArabia News Service