Walid Kurdi, Jordan’s Number One Most Wanted, Back in the Spotlight
Walid Kurdi, former CEO of the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company (JPMC) and relative of the royal family, is back in the spotlight, after fleeing from Jordan in the wake of the embezzlement accusations against him concerning fraudulent shipping contracts estimated at $40 million. The Kurdi case resurfaced when Jordanians started sharing an old picture of him at Prince Faysal’s wedding in 2010 on FaceBook, asking, “How did Kurdi, a wanted man, enter Jordan?” A number of websites have recently published that “Kurdi has repeatedly reentered the country since the verdict was issued against him without being arrested by the authorities. The government is avoiding releasing any statement related to the Kurdi case, as Muhammad Momani, the official government spokesperson, has said that the government has nothing new to say that has not already been announced concerning “informing the British authorities of the extradition order issued by the Jordanian courts to return Kurdi to the country.” He also stated that “the Ministry of Justice is the only body authorized to issue a statement on this matter.” The Jordanian Spring Lifts Kurdi’s Cover Kurdi, who holds a BA in Economics, has had his protection lifted after a series of events including public demand for legal proceedings and fraud charges against friends and family of the King. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) handed the JPMC shipping contracts over to the Commission’s prosecutor after the investigation exposed suspicions of fraud reaching 40 million dollars. This comes in the wake of the Jordanian Parliament issuing a report concluding that the former Prime Minister, Marouf al-Bakhit, and four other ministers of his 2007 cabinet, including Finance Minister Ziyad Fariz, Minister of Suhair al-Ali, Minister of Justice Abdul Shakanbah and Minister of Industry and Trade Sharif Zu’b, were not responsible in the JPMC case. Parliament also voted that Minister of Finance Muhammad Abu Hammour and former Royal Court chief Bassem Awadallah were not responsible. In an unexpected move last March, Kurdi submitted his resignation as CEO of the Jordan Phosphate Mines Company and left to London. His resignation letter mentioned that his “reasons for leaving were entirely personal and, at its core, are to protect the company and the greater good so that workers do not worry and so that the company doesn’t face pressures that would effect their production, or worse, the company’s existence.” Kurdi’s resignation did not meet public demands that are calling for those responsible to be held accountable in court and for the retrieval of “the county’s resources and especially the phosphorous.” Additionally, there are demands that government promise to bring fraud charges against a senior official a few weeks before the elections. Within a week, the two ACC prosecutors Assem Tarawneh and Abdul Ilah Assaf issued their report in which they articulated their suspicion of Kurdi, charging him with the crime of “abuse of office” according to the provisions of the penal laws and economic crimes of the ACC. There is also conflicting news concerning the subpoena issued by the Attorney General with Interpol against Kurdi who is in London as was done against Khaled Shaheen in the refinery case. Case Details The ACC completed its investigation of the two cases against the JPMC related to marketing and shipping deals. The investigations showed that after the entry of a newstrategic partner and administrative changes, the company signed maritime shipping contracts with a foreign company, whose owners remain anonymous, at higher rates than those prevalent in the market. The investigations also showed that the JPMC ignored signing the contracts with the Jordan International Chartering Company (JICC), of which the JPMC owns more than 30 per cent. Both the probe into the contracts and agreements and testimony of witnesses showed that the Aqaba Development and Marine Services (ADMS) company with which the JPMC signed a deal to ship 250,000 tons of phosphate to Turkey in 2010, was found to be owned by Kurdi and his relatives, which the ACC considers to be “abuse of office” The investigation also discovered that the ADMS owned around 70 per cent of the maritime agency contracts with shipowners to transport the phosphate from Aqaba to other countries. Khaled Shaheen and Kurdi: Similar Circumstances Kurdi, who was sentenced to 22 and a half years of hard labor and 15 years of hard labor, is not the first case of someone fleeing Jordan. The businessman Khaled Shameen fled to London and then Germany and was extradited to Jordan 65 days later under the charges of bribery in the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Co. expansion project scandal. This has raised questions about the Kurdi extradition.. Political activist Labeeb Qamhawi sees the difference in these cases as being a result of Kurdi’s familial ties to the royal family and considers the Kurdi case to be “a conspiracy by the government against the people,” pointing to how “the authorities have dealt with the Kurdi case versus the Shaheen case, especially in terms of the extradition process.” Qamhawi also said that the family ties between Kurdi and the king has a big role that has both confused the agencies dealing with the case and could harm a number of officials in the case that he were arrested. Abu Qatada’s Extradition Sheds Light on Kurdi Former Chariman of the Jordan Bar Association, Saleh al-Armuti, confirms that the Jordanian authorities can legally, in coordination with Interpol, can extradite Walid Kurdi by virtue of the agreements between Jordan and Britain. The easy extradition of Abu Qatada is strong evidence that the authorities have no intention of extraditing Kurdi. Jordan has ratified the extradition treaty with the United States, which excluded political refugees. However, the appendix of this treaty allows for their extradition “if other circumstances exist in which both parties have an existing treaty.” Concerning this treaty, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Nasour said in front of the parliament that, “there is tremendous benefit for Jordan in this treaty.” Kurdi (67) and his wife Princess Basma (65) have two children, Saad (31) and Zayn (27) and is a businessman in the private sector. There is no accurate evaluation of his net worth, but a few months ago sources leaked that Kurdi tried to pay 500 million dollars to close the ACC’s fraud case against him.