Kuwait’s Finance Minister Mustafa al-Shamali resigned on Thursday following a marathon grilling in which opposition MPs accused him of wide-ranging financial irregularities.
“I submit my resignation from my post,” declared the 69-year-old minister after a passionate address in parliament following the 11-hour questioning.
Ten opposition MPs still filed a no-confidence motion against the minister which will not count if the oil-rich Gulf state’s ruler officially accepts the resignation.
If the emir does not accept the resignation, voting on the motion will take place on June 3.
Shamali, who has been finance minister in the oil-rich emirate since 2007, categorically denied the accusations against him and insisted that he worked to his best to serve his nation.
He is the first minister to quit the new Kuwaiti cabinet formed just over three months following snap polls in which the Islamist-led opposition scored a comprehensive victory.
The three opposition MPs who grilled Shamali accused him of being responsible for wide-ranging violations that are estimated to have cost the Gulf state billions of dollars.
They also charged that the state-run pension fund, headed by him, is a partner in a local company suspected of breaking the international embargo on Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.
The company has also helped the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah to buy arms, MP Abdulrahman al-Anjari charged during a parliamentary grilling of the minister.
Shamali refused to comment on the Iran-linked allegations despite being pressed several times by lawmakers.
MP Mussallam al-Barrak charged the minister of violating the law in the process of awarding Kuwait’s first Independent Water and Power Project (IWPP) at Al-Zour North, 100 km (62 miles) south of Kuwait City.
A consortium of Japan’s Sumitomo Corp, International Power-GDF SUEZ and a Kuwaiti construction company has been named preferred bidder for the $2.5 billion (2 billion euro) joint gas-fired combined cycle power and desalination plant.
Barrak called for scrapping the awarding process and for adopting a public auction for local and international firms.
The minister categorically denied the allegations claiming that they were part of settling personal and political scores.
Barrak also held the minister and the government responsible of squandering around $20 billion from foreign companies under an offset programme that requires the firms to reinvest 35 percent of their contracts in Kuwait.
Barrak and MP Khaled al-Tahoos accused the ministry of being responsible for squandering billions of dollars of public funds by leasing state land at a very cheap price to “influential businessmen.”
The grilling began after two days of bickering between the government and the opposition lawmakers who had filed two requests to quiz Shamali.
The government boycotted parliamentary sessions for two days over the controversy, which was resolved when the opposition withdrew one of the requests.
The grilling could lead to opposition MPs filing a no-confidence motion against the minister. Voting on the request will take place after eight days.
The opposition needs the support of 25 MPs to vote the minister out of office and it has the backing of well over 30 in the 50-member house.
Kuwait, OPEC’s third largest producer, has been rocked since 2006 by a series of political crises that led to the resignation of the cabinet several times and parliament being dissolved on four occasions.