Houthis embroiled in aid agency corruption scandal

A confidential report by a UN panel of experts on Yemen said Houthi authorities constantly pressure aid agencies. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 August 2019

Houthis embroiled in aid agency corruption scandal

  • A probe by UN agency, UNICEF, focuses on a staffer who allowed a Houthi militia leader to travel in agency vehicles
  • A report by a UN panel of experts on Yemen said Houthi authorities constantly pressure and intimidating aid agencies

An Associated Press investigation has found that more than a dozen United Nations aid workers deployed to deal with the humanitarian crisis caused by five years of conflict in Yemen are being accused of graft to enrich themselves from an international outpouring of donated food, medicine, fuel and money.

A probe by UN agency, UNICEF, focuses on a staffer who allowed a Houthi militia leader to travel in agency vehicles, shielding him from potential airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. The individuals who spoke to the AP about the investigations did so on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.

According to three people with knowledge of the probe, internal auditors at UNICEF are investigating Khurram Javed, a Pakistani national suspected of letting a senior Houthi official use an agency vehicle.


ALSO READ:

Italian WHO aid official under investigation for corruption in Yemen  


That effectively gave the Houthi official protection from airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis, since UNICEF clears its vehicles’ movements with the coalition to ensure their safety.

Javed was well known for his close ties to Houthi security agencies; he boasted that he used his connection to prevent UNICEF auditors from entering the country, a former co-worker and an aid official said. The Houthi militias even put up a large billboard of him on a Sanaa street, thanking him for his services.

Javed could not be reached for comment. UNICEF officials confirmed that as part of an ongoing probe, an investigative team had traveled to Yemen to look into the allegations. They said Javed has been transferred to another office but did not disclose the location.

A confidential report by a UN panel of experts on Yemen, obtained by the AP, said Houthi authorities constantly pressure aid agencies, forcing them to hire loyalists, intimidating them with threats to revoke visas and aiming to control their movements and project implementation.
An official said the UN’s inability or unwillingness to address the alleged corruption in its aid programs harms the agency’s efforts to help Yemenis affected by the war.

“This is scandalous to any agency and ruins the impartiality of UN,” the aid official said.


Banks in Lebanon reopen amid security increase

Updated 31 min 30 sec ago

Banks in Lebanon reopen amid security increase

  • Two security guards will be placed in front of each bank, and security patrols will be conducted in cities

BEIRUT: Banks in Lebanon will reopen on Tuesday after the Association of Banks in Lebanon approved measures to ease the anger of depositors and customers. 

More than 3,000 members of Beirut’s police, the regional gendarmerie, the judicial police, and the information division of the Internal Security Forces will provide protection to banks and their employees, who carried out an open strike for a week.

They did so due to customers’ anger over measures applied by banks on withdrawals and transfers amid Lebanon’s severe political and economic crisis, which sparked mass protests that have been ongoing for 33 days.

Two security guards will be placed in front of each bank, and security patrols will be conducted in cities.

The Association of Banks in Lebanon decided on Sunday to “stop restrictions on new funds transferred from abroad, provided that remittances abroad only cover urgent personal expenses.”

It also decided to lift restrictions on the circulation of checks, transfers, and the use of credit cards in Lebanon. 

As for the use of credit cards abroad, ceilings are determined by agreements between banks and customers.

The association has determined a maximum cash withdrawal rate of $1,000 per week for holders of current accounts in dollars, while checks issued in foreign currencies will be transferred into their account.

It has also urged customers to “use their credit cards, especially in Lebanese pounds, to buy their needs.”

Meanwhile, protesters are preparing to block roads leading to Parliament in the heart of Beirut on Tuesday, to prevent a legislative session from taking place. The session had already been postponed for a week.

In an attempt to placate protesters, the presidential palace’s media office said the president has ordered investigations into “financial crimes, waste, forgery, money laundering and suspicious transactions,” as well as “negligence at work, promotion of counterfeit medicines and suspicious reconciliation contracts.”