Riyadh's Rolexes: Leaked document claims to reveal Saudi 'bribes'

Riyadh's Rolexes: Leaked document claims to reveal Saudi 'bribes'
3 min read
14 April, 2016
A Saudi diplomatic cable suggesting expensive gifts for Egyptian officials during King Salman's Cairo visit was made public on Wednesday by former Egyptian presidential candidate, Ayman Nour.
The document suggests giving Sisi a $300,000 watch as a gift [AFP]

An array of expensive gifts should be handed out to Egyptian officials during King Salman's recent visit to Cairo, according to a document purporting to be a diplomatic cable leaked from the Saudi embassy in Cairo, published online on Wednesday night by former Egyptian presidential candidate Ayman Nour.

The document, posted on Nour's Twitter feed, appears to be an official cable from the Saudi ambassador in Cairo to the head of the royal court and the country's foreign minister.

The document includes a list of Egyptian officials, starting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along with suggested gifts they should receive during King Salman's visit, including the price of the gift.

The document suggests that Sisi should receive a Rolex Submariner Diamond Emerald Baguette watch, worth an eye-watering $290,000 - $300,000.

The head of parliament and the prime minister should be given a lower model Rolex watch, worth only $185,000 - $190,000, according to the cable.

As for the 508 male members of parliament, the document suggests that they receive Tissot watches worth between $1300 and $1500, while it suggests the 87 female MPs receive watches worth $1000.

The document ends its suggestions by noting that there is a prior agreement to allocate cash gifts to government ministers, journalists and "all employees in the Egyptian presidency".

Nour appeared on the opposition satellite channel Elsharq on Wednesday evening to announce that he intended to use the document to file a criminal complaint against the Egyptian government for receiving foreign bribes.

Mutaz Matar, the TV presenter hosting Nour, described the Saudi "gifts" to Egyptian officials as "bribes" to guarantee the handover of two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanfir, to Saudi Arabia.

The handover of the islands by the Egyptian government has caused a huge stir among Egyptians, who accuse President Sisi of selling the islands off in return for billions of dollars in Saudi investments.

Nour told the TV station that there were laws regulating the exchange of valuable gifts between world leaders, but the fact that the Saudi document suggests gifts for all members of parliament - and select members of the media -demonstrates an intention to buy influence among lawmakers.

Some Twitter users have, however, cast doubt on the authenticity of the document, with one Saudi user, Badr al-Amer, arguing that it contained phrases unliekly to be used in official government correspondence in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Amer also contends that the document contains grammatical errors, while official documents are routinely edited for spelling and grammar.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman conducted a rare five-day visit to Egypt last week, which culminated in the signing of a $1.7 billion investment deal that includes a plan for a bridge between the two countries.

The kingdom has been one of the staunchest supporters of President Sisi, who came to power after overthrowing Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, in a military coup in 2013.