Bakhit and Casinogate .. from The Guardian

Jordan supercasino secret deal was personally approved by

prime minister


Was the title of an article in the Guardian on Monday, September 12th 2011.

Although Maarouf Al Bakhit publicaly declined any responsibility for personally authorising the deal, a document obtained by the Guardian shows that this is not true. That the PM did indeed personally approve the contract as shown in a letter marked private written on 10th September 2007, giving the minister of tourism and heritage the green light to sign a deal with developer OASIS.

More documents revealed to the Guardian dated between August and September of 2007, Bakhit both saw the tenders in advance and the subsequent contract – a copy of which has also been passed to the Guardian and included a confidentiality clause to prevent public discussion of its contents.

Secret Jordanian state correspondence seen by the Guardian also shows that licences for two earlier casino developments were issued in December 2003 by a previous government led by prime minister Faisal al-Fayez (and negotiated under his predecessor, Ali Abu al-Ragheb in April of that year): one to be built in Aqaba on the Red Sea and the other near the Sheikh Hussein bridge over the Jordan river, linking Jordan to northern Israel.

Like the Dead Sea project, the 2003 contract runs for 50 years. The licence for the casinos – which have also yet to be built – was issued to Ayla Corporation, a company owned by Khaled al-Masri, a well-connected businessman also involved in the 2007 Dead Sea bid. The government had hoped to get round the anti-gambling laws by barring Jordanians from the sites.

Fayez is now the speaker of the Jordanian parliament and in June played a central role in the investigation of the casino scandal and impeachment hearings, allowing Bakhit to speak in his own defence but barring the former tourism minister Dabbas from doing so. Several MPs walked out and submitted their resignations in protest.


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