Houthis 'took' $107 million from Yemen bank

Houthis 'took' $107 million from Yemen bank
A source at the Central Bank of Yemen tells al-Araby that that Houthi gunmen took millions of US dollars from the bank to aid the 'war effort'.
2 min read
29 April, 2015
The Houthis are in control of Sanaa (AFP)

Houthi gunmen took 23 billion Yemeni riyals ($107 million) from the Central Bank of Yemen under the pretext of supporting the military effort against the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on the country, a source in the bank has claimed.

The gunmen are said to have stormed the bank with instructions from the Houthi Revolutionary Committee, which is in control of the capital Sanaa and other parts of the north, to give them 6 billion Yemeni riyals. However, the Central Bank's governor, Muhammed bin Hammam, turned down the request, allegedly citing the country's current financial hardship.

The source said that the gunmen then stormed the vault and instead took 23 billion YER, prompting bin Hammam to threaten to resign should the Houthis not return the money taken.

The loss of such a large sum of money from the Central Bank's vaults would put the country in a very critical position, leaving the state unable to pay salaries or cover food and fuel imports, something that it has barely been able to do already.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed could not independently verify whether the reports of the money being taken were indeed true.

Separately, local sources told al-Araby al-Jadeeed that local councils in Houthi-controlled provinces admitted that their employees had suffered from pay cuts so that the money saved could support Houthi military efforts as they continue to fight across the country, in alliance with armed forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

A number of government employees told al-Araby that the pay cuts were mandatory, and that April was the second month in a row that the cuts had happened. Private sector companies are also paying large sums of money as a “contribution” to the war effort.

The Houthi-Saleh forces are attempting to expand into the resource-rich provinces of Marib and Shabwa, but have faced resistance from local tribes.

Since the Houthis took over Sanaa, the country has been suffering from financial hardships as foreign aid, largely coming from Saudi Arabia, has stopped. The Yemeni riyal has also lost value against the US dollar and other hard currencies, forcing the Central Bank to force all Yemeni banks to stop dealing in US dollars, in the hope that this will stop the riyal plunging further.

In a memo sent to all banks, the Central Bank said that the withdrawal of hard currency savings by many clients since the start of Saudi-led airstrikes meant that foreign currencies should not be used.