Crackdown on Bahrain corruption

Charges filed against top executives as gov't pushes to end fraudulent business practices in kingdom.

Bahrain has filed a series of public corruption charges against top executives in a bid to put an end to fraudulent business practices in the country.

The fight against corruption has become a priority for the Gulf island state and for its Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, according to the state firm overseeing the campaign, newswire AFP reported on Tuesday.

“The Bahraini leadership is pressing ahead with reforms... and we will not spare any minister implicated in corruption,” the newswire quoted the crown prince as saying in local media.

Two marketing directors who have allegedly pocketed commissions on aluminium sales at industry giant Aluminium Bahrain have been referred to the public prosecution, AFP said.

And an executive and eight employees at troubled airline Gulf Air have been probed on suspicion of misappropriation of funds.

According to the newswire, newspapers in the country have also reported that an executive of the Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard Company - a Bahrain-based firm in which the government has an 18% stake - has been accused of misappropriation of funds and abuse of power.

"The accused are not mere employees... but commercial directors who handle transactions involving big sums of money," said Mahmud Kawhaji, deputy executive president of Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, the firm in charge of the campaign, AFP reported.

"I hope that no minister who is proven to be involved in corruption will be spared so that the campaign will have credibility," MP Jassem Hussein was quoted as saying.

Last month the anti-corruption coalition Transparency International said in its 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) that the level of corruption in Bahrain - as well as in Oman and Jordan - has significantly worsened over the last year.

The index ranks the degree of public sector corruption as perceived by business people and country analysts between zero and 10, with 10 being the least corrupt.

Bahrain saw its CPI score drop from 5.7 last year to 5.0 this year, putting it in 46th place along with Costa Rica and Bhutan out of 180 countries ranked in the survey. The survey gave no specific reasons for the rise in corruption.

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