By: Abdo Ayesh
A public campaign was recently launched in Sana’a to demand the recovery of looted public funds from ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who, along with former members of his regime, is believed to hold more than $ 50 billion dollars. The campaign accuses Saleh and figure from his regime of seizing public funds and of investing such funds in real estate and hotel projects.
Economic activist Yaseen Al-Tameemy said the campaign is significant, as it establishes efforts which can be fruitful in the near future. “What is more important is to continue the campaign and focus on getting all possible documents and proofs that supports our demands in hand,” he added.
Al-Tameemy said that while they may be late in having the looted funds returned to the state budget, they will reach their goals in the near future. Al-Tameemy stated that Saleh and his followers used looted money to hinder the peaceful transition and to destroy the country’s infrastructure, and this while Yemen was already in a fragile state.
For his part, Mohammed Al-Afandi, Chairman of the Strategic Studies Center and Former Trade Minister, reported that the former regime used a variety of methods to spread corruption, to loot public funds, and to further empower those already in power at the expense of the economic and social development of the Yemeni people.
“Recovering the looted funds will be one of the important steps to support the financial center of the Yemeni government, and it will help enrich the economic and development processes,” he added.
He also noted that the looted funds, if recovered, would help Yemen survive the current crisis without needing to ask for foreign assistance.
Lawyer Abdurrahman Barman, a member of the Hood Organization, said it would be easy to prove the looting process, as there exists clear-cut evidence that Saleh and members of his regime looted public funds, something which is reflected in their very wealth. Barman added that if President Hadi asked the U.S. to freeze the assets of any member of Saleh’s regime, they would immediately respond, “Especially after President Obama approved the freezing of assets of any American or Yemeni person who hindered a peaceful transition for Yemen.”
Barman noted that he had met with members of the American Congress who actively reacted to change for Yemen and who believed that Yemenis had the right to recover their looted funds. “Saleh collected his wealth through gas and oil contracts, and the amounts of money he would ask for in return for giving companies exclusive rights to prospect for gas and oil,” he added.
According to Barman, Saleh has a number of properties in the U.S, is reported to have smuggled large amounts of funds to Dubai and Bahrain, and reportedly purchased large amounts of gold as well as properties in Germany and Malaysia during the 2011 Revolution.