Six senior officials arrested in Jordan 'cigarettes scandal' corruption saga

Six senior officials arrested in Jordan 'cigarettes scandal' corruption saga
2 min read
23 January, 2019
The high-profile arrests, including a former minister, come after months of heated debate over the investigation into a multi-million dollar counterfeit cigarette operation allegedly led by prominent businessman Awni Motee
Protests against austerity and corruption forced the previous government to resign in June [Getty]

The Jordanian State Security Court (SSSC) arrested six high-ranking officials on Wednesday in connection with the so-called "cigarettes scandal" corruption saga involving the illegal production and smuggling of fake branded cigarettes.

According to Jordanian news site al-Ghad, the main suspect is businessman Awni Motee.

Those arrested on Wednesday include the former water minister Muneer Awees, the former customs director Wadah al-Hamoud, former government adviser Wahab al-Awamla, Lieutenant-Colonel Wael al-Samadi, and an official for the al-Hurra district, Islam Ghidan.

The Public Prosecutor's Office charged all the above with charges of "carrying out acts that endanger society’s safety and security, endangering economic resources, and carrying out acts that would change the state's economic structure or endanger the basic conditions of society".

The group were also charged with smuggling and sales tax evasion.

Motee fled the country on 11 July, the day before one of the cigarette factories believed to be owned by him was raided by authorities. Motee was subsequently tracked down in Turkey, attempting to escape the charges. He has since been arrested but denies the charges.

The cigarettes scandal has been the focus of public attention in Jordan over recent months, as the government attempts to crack down on widespread official corruption.

Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz ordered an investigation into cigarette smuggling soon after coming into power in June.

Razzaz was appointed prime minister in a bid to appease angry Jordanians disillusioned with the country's economic situation, including pervasive corruption within the government.

Thousands took to the streets in June to protest anti-austerity measures, forcing the old government to resign.

Motee is accused of running illegal tobacco factories on farms in Jordan, making counterfeit cigarettes of popular brands such as Winston, which police believe to be a multi-million dollar business.

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