Tourism council members face prosecution in the Jordanian ‘casino file’
Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh on Tuesday referred violations by members of the National Tourism Council (NTC) in connection to the “casino file” to the justice minister to be referred to the attorney general for necessary legal procedures.
The members’ violations include “abuse of public office” after they reportedly signed a council decision that labels a casino as a legitimate tourism business in accordance with the Tourism Law, according to a Prime Ministry statement. The casino case is related to a deal the first government of former premier Marouf Bakhit signed with an investor in 2007 to build a casino on the shores of the Dead Sea, which was later scrapped with the country reportedly paying a heavy price as a compromise deal with the investor. According to a report by the Lower House committee that investigated the casino file earlier this year, an NTC decision to consider casinos as tourism businesses was not signed by all the members and was not taken by the majority during a meeting as stipulated by the law. The 19-member council is headed by the tourism minister and includes secretaries general of the ministries of tourism, interior, finance, planning, environment and awqaf.
The council also includes directors of the Jordan tourism and investment boards, the Department of Antiquities and the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority, among others. Six members are selected from the private sector. Maen Nsour, current director of the Social Security Corporation, was among the members who refused to sign the decision, while the awqaf ministry secretary general at the time was not informed of it, according to the House committee report. Prosecutors started looking into the casino case earlier this month. According to local news reports, former premier Samir Rifai and former finance minister Bassem Salem presented their testimonies related to the case to a prosecutor on Tuesday.
Also yesterday, Khasawneh decided to refer a file detailing financial and administrative violations committed by the former director of the Department of Antiquities to the minister of justice to refer it to the prosecutor general. The Prime Ministry’s statement did not name the former official, but outgoing director Ziad Saad’s contract was terminated in July this year.