Kuwait pursues corruption charges in Eurofighter plane deal

·2 min read

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Kuwait's government said Monday that it had referred two senior military officers for prosecution in a major corruption case related to the country's purchase of Eurofighter Typhoon combat planes, after an investigation into the jets' improperly inflated price.

The Anti-Corruption Authority said that a major general and colonel in Kuwait's army would face prosecutors over their alleged misuse of public funds, the latest corruption case to rock the oil-rich sheikhdom. Officials are ramping up a long-flagging campaign toward greater accountability as government graft increasingly causes public and parliamentary consternation.

Kuwait ordered 28 Eurofighter Typhoon jets, made by a consortium of European companies, in 2016 under a contract valued at some $8.7 billion. The first two planes in the order joined Kuwait's air force last month.

The high cost of the deal raised eyebrows when compared with similar purchases of the combat planes across the Middle East as many Gulf Arab states went on spending sprees amid the region's grinding conflicts.

Qatar, for instance, paid an estimated $6.9 billion for just 24 of the same jets with shipments beginning next year. For a total of 72 Typhoons, Saudi Arabia paid an estimated $6 billion, albeit for an older generation of planes. The kingdom also reached a deal with the British government valued at some $5 billion to purchase an additional 48 planes a decade later.

The Kuwaiti Anti-Corruption Authority's investigations into the deal revealed that the army officers “caused grave damage to public money by issuing inflated bills to the manufacturer that exceeded the total value agreed upon in the main contract,” the country's state-run KUNA news agency reported.

The authorities thanked an unnamed whistleblower for helping the government obtain information about the misuse of funds and said efforts to collect and examine evidence continued.

It wouldn't be the first scandal to cast a shadow over Kuwait's army. The embezzlement of nearly $800 million from Kuwait's military aid fund forced the resignation of the government two years ago. The former prime minister and defense minister remain detained pending trial.

Activists believe corruption runs rampant through the region of oil-rich Gulf Arab sheikhdoms, but public criminal cases against senior officials are rare.