Former Yemen president denies theft allegations
Ali Abdullah Saleh still remains at liberty in Yemen, unlike other leaders ousted during the Arab Spring (File/AFP)
Other Yemeni officials may have looted public funds, but former president Ali Abdullah Saleh says he was not one of them and he has challenged his authorities to find one dollar acquired inappropriately and hold him to account.
His critics in Yemen, an impoverished country of 25 million where 40 percent of the population live on less than $2 per day, accuse him of embezzling billions of dollars during his 33 years in power.
Others say it is clear the veteran former president still wields immense informal power in Yemen’s turbulent politics, and speculate this stems in part from access to significant wealth. Not so, Saleh told Reuters.
Seated on a plush couch in a tent in the garden of his mansion in the capital Sanaa, Saleh, a sprightly 72, challenged anyone to find evidence of wrongdoing during a recent interview.
“I had a (finance ministry) and a central bank. Let them produce one dinar Ali Abdullah withdrew and judge him,” said Saleh, appearing relaxed and confident and dressed in a sharp plaid black and grey suit jacket and a striped tie.
Any suggestion he stole, he says, is part of a campaign to denigrate him by what he terms the ‘failed’ administration now at the helm of the Arabian peninsula state, the second poorest Arab country after Mauritania.
Saleh is unique among the leaders who lost power during Arab Spring uprisings by remaining at liberty in his country, thanks to a deal brokered by the United States and Gulf Arab countries following mass protests against his rule.
The demonstrations, which were part of the Arab Spring uprisings, were demanding democratic and economic reforms. Not for Saleh, however, the indignity of exile or the high profile prosecutions suffered by his fellow former Arab leaders.