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28 February 2024

Potential corruption probe at Batelco

By Agencies


Bahraini officials are meeting with Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) on Wednesday to decide whether to investigate allegations of corruption, one of the officials told Reuters.

A lawmaker accused Batelco of paying off an executive in Jordan to secure an acquisition in that country and of running bogus projects that allowed company officials to make money, Bahrain's Gulf Daily News newspaper said in its Wednesday edition.

Batelco spokesman Ahmed Al Janahi declined to comment on the newspaper report, and told Reuters the company would make a statement later.

Finance Minister Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammad Al Khalifa has asked Mahmood Al Kooheji, deputy chief executive of state holding company Mumtalakat, to look into whether an investigation was needed, Kooheji told Reuters.

Mumtalakat and other government entities own about 75 per cent of Batelco's stock.

"There were allegations by a member of parliament. The minister of finance instructed me to meet with the MP and today we are listening to Batelco's board to hear both sides," Kooheji said.

"From there we determine if there is a need for any issues to be investigated," he said. Kooheji declined to elaborate on the allegations against Batelco.

Abdullatif Al Shaikh, a lawmaker of the Al Menbar political group, accused Batelco of paying BHD11.34 million (Dh110 million) over six months to an executive at Jordanian mobile operator Umniah to secure Batelco's acquisition of the company in 2006, according to the Gulf Daily News.

Shaikh's Al Menbar group usually supports the government.

"Can anyone believe, someone who earns BHD5,347 [Dh52,187] a month, should get BHD11.34 million [Dh111m] just to keep him for six months?" the paper quoted Shaikh as saying.

Shaikh also said Batelco executives were getting rich through fake projects, the paper reported.

"A bogus scheme of BHD1.5 million [Dh14.6m] to improve the structure of Batelco's services has never been checked by the company's projects committee, not assessed by the purchase department, not presented to the board, which approved it although the name of the supplier was fake," it quoted Shaikh as saying.

Kooheji declined to comment on when a decision whether to investigate the allegations would be made, or what action could be taken against any offenders.

Batelco's foreign operations including Umniah were the biggest drivers of profit growth last year.

In October the company said it planned to spend at least $4 billion (Dh14.7bn) on foreign acquisitions to offset an expected fall in profitability in its home market as competition intensifies. (Reuters)