Yemen Central Bank denies UN accusations of money-laundering, corruption

The bank claimed that the UN report could be based on misleading allegations from Yemen’s enemies. (AFP)
The bank claimed that the UN report could be based on misleading allegations from Yemen’s enemies. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 28 January 2021

Yemen Central Bank denies UN accusations of money-laundering, corruption

Yemen Central Bank denies UN accusations of money-laundering, corruption
  • Cooperative and Agricultural Credit Bank moves its main offices to Aden from Sanaa
  • No progress yet on prisoner swap talks in Amman between representatives of government and Houthis

AL-MUKALLA
: The Central Bank of Yemen has strongly denied accusations it misused Saudi deposits and was involved in money-laundering and foreign currency rate manipulation.

In a statement seen by Arab News on Wednesday, the bank said that the latest accusations by the UN monitors were based on false information. It added that the bank’s financial activities have always been transparent and met international monetary and trade rules.

The bank claimed that the UN report could be based on misleading allegations from Yemen’s enemies, who target the central bank and its activities in Aden.

It added that the bank applied cautious, transparent policy in regard to the changing rate as the Yemeni riyal sharply fluctuated, which caused a sharp increase in prices of basic goods covered by the deposit.

In their annual report on the implementation of sanctions on the war-torn country, the UN  discovered that the central bank helped a group of Yemeni traders make $423 million in profits from “a sophisticated money-laundering scheme of the Saudi deposit” and manipulating foreign exchange rules.

“The $423 million is public money, which has been illegally transferred to private corporations. Documents provided by the Central Bank of Yemen fail to explain why they adopted such a destructive strategy,” the UN report said.

Elsewhere, the Cooperative and Agricultural Credit Bank (CAC bank), a state-owned Yemeni bank, has moved its operations and main offices from Houthi-controlled Sanaa to the southern port city of Aden, the interim capital of Yemen, the news agency SABA said on Tuesday.

Yemen’s Minister of Finance Salem ben Brek told SABA that CAC bank is now responsible for paying public sector salaries in government-controlled areas.

The relocation of the bank is part of a government plan to bring the banking system in Yemen under its control and deprive the Houthis of millions of dollars acquired from taxes from Sanaa-based banks and mobile operators.

In September, Sabafon, Yemen’s oldest and largest mobile operator, announced that it would relocate its main offices and operations from Sanaa to Aden.

Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in September 2016 ordered the central bank headquarters to move to Aden to stop the Houthis from plundering its reserves.

The president’s move sparked an economic war between the two banks as the Houthis refused to pay salaries of public servants in areas under their control and banned banknotes printed by the Yemeni government in Aden.  

Despite the Yemeni government efforts to control the exchange system, the Yemeni riyal on Thursday moved towards a new record low in the government-controlled areas after recovering late last year following the formation of the new unity government and the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.

Moneychangers said that the riyal hovered around 870 against the dollar on Thursday, dropping from 700 riyals early this month.

The central bank closed unauthorized exchange companies, banned informal transfer systems between local exchange companies and provided food and fuel importers with hard currencies in a bid to curb the fall.

The measures briefly helped the riyal to recover before it started falling again.

Meanwhile, frustrated prisoner swap talks between representatives of the Yemeni government and the Houthis are continuing in Amman.

Brokered by the UN, warring factions in Yemen on Sunday resumed talks on swapping hundreds of prisoners under the Stockholm Agreement. Yemeni government officials previously told Arab News that both sides discussed releasing 301 prisoners, including some high-profile prisoners such as the Yemeni president’s brother Nasser Mansour Hadi.

On Tuesday, the Houthi released a government prisoner whose name was included among hundreds of prisoners who were released during the latest prisoner swap in October.

Government sources told Arab News that the Houthis agreed to release Basher Al-Hafashi, who was abducted by the Houthis four years ago and was later sentenced to death, after the head of the Yemeni government delegation in prisoner swap talks, Hadi Al-Haej, threatened to boycott the talks in Amman.

The Iran-backed Houthis bowed to the pressure and released Al-Hafashi, who arrived in the central city of Marib.

Majed Fadhail, deputy minister of human rights and a member of the government delegation in the talks, told Arab News on Thursday that the Houthis seek to swap their fighters with civilians who were abducted from their homes in Sanaa and the other Houthi-controlled areas.
 


48 Houthi militants killed near Yemen’s Marib: Arab coalition

48 Houthi militants killed near Yemen’s Marib: Arab coalition
Updated 11 sec ago

48 Houthi militants killed near Yemen’s Marib: Arab coalition

48 Houthi militants killed near Yemen’s Marib: Arab coalition
  • Arab coalition says airstrikes hit 14 Houthi targets, also destroying six military vehicles

RIYADH: The Arab coalition in Yemen said on Tuesday it carried out 14 attacks targeting Houthi militia members in two districts near the strategic city of Marib in the last 24 hours.
The coalition said 48 Houthis have been killed and six military vehicles were destroyed in the military operations in Al-Jawba and Al-Kassara.
“We will continue to provide support to the Yemeni National Army to protect civilians from Houthi violations,” the coalition said in a statement.
This is the ninth consecutive day that the coalition has announced strikes around Marib, reporting a total of more than 1,200 Houthi fatalities.
The previously announced bombings were in Abedia about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Marib — the internationally recognized government’s last bastion in oil-rich northern Yemen.
The strikes reported Tuesday were closer to Marib.
Al-Jawba lies about 50 kilometers from the city and Al-Kassara is about 30 kilometers northwest.
According to a government military official on Tuesday, fighting between the two sides “continues on a number of fronts but there are no major advances or changes on the ground in recent hours.”
The Houthis began a major push to seize Marib in February and have renewed their offensive since September after a lull.
(With AFP)


Blinken says Yemen conflict is top US foreign policy priority

Blinken says Yemen conflict is top US foreign policy priority
Updated 19 min ago

Blinken says Yemen conflict is top US foreign policy priority

Blinken says Yemen conflict is top US foreign policy priority
  • The US secretary of state congratulates UN envoy to Yemen on his new role during call

LONDON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday reiterated that resolving the conflict in Yemen remains a top US foreign policy priority.
His comments came during a phone call with the newly-appointed UN envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg.
Blinken congratulated Grundberg, who was appointed in August to replace Martin Griffiths, on his new role, the State Department said in a statement.
During the call, they “discussed efforts to engage all parties without preconditions and secure a cease-fire, address urgent humanitarian priorities, restart the political process in Yemen, and ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses.”
Blinken also welcomed collaboration on the common goal of reaching an “inclusive, durable solution” to end the conflict in Yemen and bringing relief to Yemenis, the statement added.
On Monday, Grundberg ended a visit to Oman, where he met with Omani officials, Houthi representatives, and representatives of the international community about reaching a comprehensive political solution to the conflict in Yemen.


Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Jerusalem

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Jerusalem
Updated 47 min 38 sec ago

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Jerusalem

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Jerusalem
  • Israeli police said Palestinians hurled rocks at police and public buses near the Damascus Gate leading into the Old City
  • Palestinians say Israeli police moved to restrict the annual gathering in and around Damascus Gate in what they saw as a provocation

JERUSALEM: Palestinians clashed with Israeli police at a popular gathering place just outside Jerusalem’s Old City as thousands celebrated a Muslim holiday.
It was a repeat of violence earlier this year that eventually led to the 11-day Gaza war in May.
Israeli police said Palestinians hurled rocks at police and public buses near the Damascus Gate leading into the Old City. They said 22 suspects were arrested.
Earlier, thousands of Palestinians had marched along the Old City walls and paused at the gate, where a scout band played the Palestinian national anthem. They continued to the Al-Aqsa mosque, where tens of thousands prayed in honor of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
Palestinians say Israeli police moved to restrict the annual gathering in and around Damascus Gate in what they saw as a provocation.
An Associated Press photographer said a few dozen youths began shouting at police and throwing water bottles, after which police fired stun grenades. The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said it treated 17 people who were wounded, including 10 who were taken to a hospital.
Palestinians clashed with Israeli police on a nightly basis during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April and May over a decision to place police barricades at Damascus Gate, a popular holiday gathering spot for Palestinians families.
The clashes continued even after the barricades were removed and eventually spread to the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Muslims and Jews. The violence, along with efforts by settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families from their homes, eventually ignited the fourth war between Israel and the militant Hamas group ruling Gaza.
The Old City is in east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.
The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the Jewish temples in antiquity.
Over the last two weeks, sporadic fights have broken out at Damascus Gate between Palestinians and Israelis, and between Palestinians and the police.


Beirut blast memorial wall covered in portraits of victims

Beirut blast memorial wall covered in portraits of victims
American artist Brady Black was inspired to portray the victims of the deadly explosion from Aug. 4, 2020, after he witnessed their beloved families mourn their tragic deaths. (Supplied)
Updated 19 October 2021

Beirut blast memorial wall covered in portraits of victims

Beirut blast memorial wall covered in portraits of victims
  • American artist Brady Black draws more than 200 portraits to memorialize every victim killed in the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion
  • Black collaborated with an art institute in Beirut: ‘All I can do is hope it is helping them in some way’

DUBAI: The victims of the Beirut Port blast will always be “seen and remembered” thanks to a memorial wall of more than 200 portraits drawn by an American artist.

Beirut-based visual journalist and artist Brady Black was inspired to portray the victims of the deadly explosion from Aug. 4, 2020, after he witnessed their beloved families and relatives mourn their tragic deaths. 

Since the world’s third most powerful non-nuclear explosion took place, the victims’ families and relatives have been protesting outside the Beirut Port holding up photos of their beloved ones to demand justice. 

Based in Lebanon since he arrived with his wife in 2015, Black approached an art institute called ‘Art of Change’ in Beirut to collaborate on a creative project and commemorate the victims.

Black spent nearly four months drawing black and white portraits of the 220 victims. Each portrait is around 10 square feet and portrays an image of each victim. 

“All I can do is hope that it’s received in the way it was intended to be and it is helping them in some way,” he told Arab News.

So far, Black said the feedback has been positive and encouraging: “I have heard a lot of the families expressing great appreciation for the work.”

The blast at the government-owned Port of Beirut claimed the lives of 220 people, injured more than 6,500, and left 300,000 homeless. The explosion resulted from a fire in a warehouse containing ammonium nitrate and caused damage worth an estimated $3 billion.

On the 4th day of every month since the explosion, the victims’ families gather to protest and hold up pictures of the loved ones they lost. Black witnessed several of these gatherings, which inspired him to do the project. 

“It looked to me like they were saying ‘See them … remember them.’ So I decided to basically do what they were doing, which was holding their loved ones’ pictures up for others to see,” Black said. “But I’m doing it in a permanent and very visible way.”

Art of Change played a vital role in the project, Black said.

“The actual installation took only a few hours with 40 volunteers who all came together to put the whole thing up,” he said. “We needed a few more days for the final touches.”

Art of Change is an art institute and creative hub that collaborates with artists and was co-founded by Jason Camp and Imane Assaf in Beirut.

“The 220 victims’ portraits were set up on a memorial wall to commemorate them in Al Saifi area, which is a few meters away from the blast spot,” Assaf, the hub’s director, told Arab News.

“On Aug. 4, to mark the one-year anniversary of the explosion, families came to check the memorial wall and they placed flowers. It was so emotional and powerful.”

She said they have collaborated with Black on similar projects involving the poor and needy as photos were posted in areas like Hamra, Manara, and others.

For this particular project, Black said he appreciated the feedback but was not emotionally prepared to speak with victims’ families. 

“It felt really encouraging being able to be a small part of helping their voices be heard,” he said.


IAEA: Surveillance of Iran nuclear program no longer ‘intact’

IAEA: Surveillance of Iran nuclear program no longer ‘intact’
Updated 19 October 2021

IAEA: Surveillance of Iran nuclear program no longer ‘intact’

IAEA: Surveillance of Iran nuclear program no longer ‘intact’
  • Director-general says Tehran ‘taking their time’ in arranging meeting with FM
  • How long it would take Iran to field nuclear weapon ‘continuously lessening’

LONDON: Temporary measures to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities are no longer “intact,” the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog has warned.

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Financial Times that he urgently needs to meet with Iran’s new foreign minister to discuss proposals to resume monitoring.

“I haven’t been able to talk to (Hossein Amirabdollahian),” Grossi said. “I need to have this contact at the political level. This is indispensable. Without it, we cannot understand each other.”

Up until recently, temporary cameras and other monitoring devices had sustained an uneasy status quo following the breakdown of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — widely known as the Iran deal — which curbed the country’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The Biden administration had hoped to renegotiate the deal with Iran, but six rounds of indirect talks have stalled since Ebrahim Raisi was elected president in June.

The US State Department said it hopes Iran will return to the ongoing talks in Vienna “as soon as possible,” but President Joe Biden had “made clear that if diplomacy fails we are prepared to turn to other options.”

Iran has steadily revitalized its nuclear research and facilities in recent years, including by increasing the levels of enriched uranium it is producing, bringing it ever-closer to the highly enriched level required for nuclear weaponry. Grossi said Iran is “within a few months” of having enough material for a nuclear weapon.

The so-called breakout time — how long it would take Iran to field a nuclear weapon — is “continuously lessening” as it enriches more uranium with more efficient centrifuges, Grossi said. 

He added that he needed working cameras in Iran’s recently reinstated Tesa Karaj manufacturing complex — which builds centrifuges — “yesterday.”

A last-minute compromise in February this year kept cameras rolling at key sites, albeit with an agreement to temporarily forgo examination of footage. 

Last month, Grossi protested Iran’s refusal to allow surveillance at Tesa Karaj, which he views as a “very important” facility because of its role in manufacturing centrifuges.

“There is this issue with Karaj, and I’m working on it,” he said. ”Our stop-gap has been seriously affected so it’s not intact. But it’s not valueless either.”

Grossi said Tehran had told him he could meet Amirabdollahian “but they are taking their time.”