How Will Jordan Primer Al Razzaz Handle Latest Tobacco Corruption Scandal?

Published July 23rd, 2018 - 10:44 GMT
Several tycoons in Jordan are accused of involvement in the illegal production and smuggling of tobacco. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Several tycoons in Jordan are accused of involvement in the illegal production and smuggling of tobacco. (Shutterstock/File Photo)

Randa Darwish

Jordanians have been overwhelmed with updates on the latest corruption scandal revealed in the last couple of days, in which several tycoons are accused of involvement in the illegal production and smuggling of tobacco.

The case was first revealed on Thursday, as two MPs questioned Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on companies smuggling equipments to produce and sell tobacco on the local market with fake branding. The PM was quoted reiterating the government’s determination to fight corruption regardless of the suspects’ identity.

Later, the government announced in an official statement imposing a travel ban on seven suspects involved in the case; six of whom are Jordanian passport holders with the seventh holding a Dutch passport. The main suspect, identified as Awni Mutee,' left the country on Saturday, July 11, just a day before security forces raided his factory, the statement said.

Quoting Minister of State for Information Affair and Government Spokesman, Jumana Ghneimat, the statement confirmed the Jordan Customs Department (JCD) raided several locations in the Kingdom where raw materials for manufacturing tobacco were found, in addition to raiding a company licensed as a juice production company where a tobacco production line was found.

The statement also read: "The government undertakes to investigate the facts and follow up the file carefully, in cooperation with the competent authorities, and it will not hesitate to seize those involved in this case wherever they are and to bring them to justice to receive their fair punishment.”

For his part, Razzaz confirmed he was designated and given the “green light” from King Abdullah II to combat corruption in Jordan.

The scandal captured Jordanians’ attention while shedding light on the recently-appointed government and its plan to handle corruption cases, especially as it was instated following seven days of protests in June 2018 over an increase in prices of fuel, electricity and income tax bill.

The scandal saw fingers pointed on several politicians and tycoons, including Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh who was seen in several photos at public events beside the main suspect, Mutee.' In response, Tarawneh condemned being linked to the case, threatening to sue anyone attempting to question his integrity.

Meanwhile, an image was widely shared among social media users showing Tarawneh (on right side of the screen) with Awni Mutee’ (on the left) together.

Translation: “What is the relation between those three people; Atef Tarawneh, Yehia Al Soud and Mahmoud Teti with runaway businessman Awni Mutee’?”

Translation: “When I was young, I thought thieves dress like this [Above Image]. But now I realized they dress like this [Below Image].”

Translation: “The government must release all investigations transparently, so no one has the chance to look for information from outside sources.”

Translation: “Whenever anything new comes out, people start wishing for better future, but I am surprised that we are still in the same circle and nothing changed. God be with our country [Jordan] and fix its fraction Oh Allah.”

Translation: “Everytime a corruption scandal is revealed, we hear things like: 'Big people will be taken down.' And still, poor people are holding back to see who will be down while big people are filling the screens [media]. God bless you my country.” 

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