KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait's prime minister hit back at allegations of corruption on Wednesday, a day after a leading opposition figure revealed documents he says prove huge sums of illicit financial transfers were made to senior officials, including judges.
Prime Minister Jaber Al-Mubarak was quoted by local newspapers as telling members of parliament that Musallam al-Barrack's documents are of no value and do not pass examination. The largely pro-government elected legislature had called for a discussion on the documents.
Parliament speaker Marzouq al-Ghanim meanwhile accused al-Barrack of slandering and insulting the country's judiciary.
The dispute has further widened the gulf between senior officials close to the ruling family and secular and Islamist opposition members demanding greater civilian oversight and an end to corruption. Kuwait prides itself on having the Gulf's most free-wheeling political system and a vibrant press, but it is illegal to criticize Emir Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah.
Al-Barrack revealed the documents to more than 6,000 protesters late Tuesday. His opposition group had called for the anti-corruption rally, which was the first organized protest in Kuwait since April 2013.
Protesters said they want better services, transparency in government and an economic revival in the Gulf Arab country that was once one of the region's most attractive destinations for foreign investment. Al-Barrack told the crowd that even members of the royal family should be held accountable. The crowd chanted in response: "The people demand the cleansing of the judiciary!"
The documents, which were online the next day on Kuwaiti blogs, allege that billions of dollars have been transferred into accounts of former senior officials, including in foreign bank accounts in Europe. A former Islamist lawmaker at the rally accused pro-government lawmakers of accepting more than $177 million dollars in bribes.
Among the top officials accused of corruption at Tuesday night's rally is Sabah Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah, a member of the royal family who currently holds the powerful post of Amiri Diwan - an office serving as a gatekeeper to Kuwait's ruling family. Al-Barrack presented to the crowd documents that he says show Al Sabah transferred massive sums of money to various people between March and May 2013.
The finance minister was quoted by local newspapers on Wednesday as saying the documents are difficult to authenticate because they lack important details. The type of currency and names of many recipients were blacked out on some of the documents.
One document alleges that Judge Faisal al-Marshad, who heads the Supreme Judicial Council in charge of all judiciary affairs in Kuwait, received more than $50 million last year in transfers. Other judges were also named in different documents.
Kuwait's Supreme Judicial Council said Wednesday it ordered an inquiry into the "lies and fabrications" made by al-Barrack.
Al-Barrack did not specify what the money was transferred for, but the accusations suggest that judges were paid to alter their positions and issue verdicts against political activists and opposition lawmakers.