Jordanian Ministers signed Casino deal without reading

Former PM fails to tesify for a second time

GMT 12:11 2012 Thursday ,25 October

Arab Today, arab today Former PM fails to tesify for a second time

Former Minister of Culture Dr. Adel Tweissi
Amman – Osama al Rantissi

Former Minister of Culture Dr. Adel Tweissi Amman – Osama al Rantissi Former Jordanian PM Marouf Bakhit failed to testify in the Dead Sea Casino corruption court case for a second time. Former Minister of Culture Dr. Adel Tweissi (in Bakhit’s government) said he signed the authorisation of Osama al-Dabbas (former Minister of Tourism, and first defendant) to negotiate with the investor and signed the “Casino agreement” before passing it to the cabinet, because of the huge number of issues passed onto the ministers.
A hearing session was held on Wednesday, headed by Judge Emil Rawashdeh with the participation of Judge Ashraf al Abdullah.
During the session, Tweissi said they reviewed all the decisions related to his ministry and the cabinet’s decision shown to him by the court dated 2008, which included the authorisation of al-Dabbas to sign the agreement dated 2007.
He added that the minister has the right oppose the matter during the negotiation and to state his opinion on the issue, but at the end he should sign the decision, providing that no one provided any written opposition to the decision.
Amman's criminal Court heard the testimony of the head of Jordan's Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) Dr Khaled Touqan, in addition to Tweissi’s testimony.
Dr Tweissi said that during a cabinet session, a tourist project in the Dead Sea was discussed, which included establishing a Casino.
Dr Tweissi stressed that head of the session, late Dr Khaled al-Zoubi, said that the Casino project was legal and signing the deal was correct and that the project was presented to the council of ministers to consider all legal aspects.
Dr Tweissi said he couldn't remember who mentioned the agreement to establish the Casino in Aqaba zone signed by the former government, noting that Jordanians are not allowed to enter the Casino. He added that he didn’t sign any documents during that session.
Tweissi said that the session was concluded by signing the authorisation of al-Dabba to sign the agreement, and he discovered that the national council of tourism considered the Casino a tourist activity.
He added that al-Dabbas explained the financial revenues of the project, saying that it will bring hundreds of millions into Jordan.
Tweissi said there was a decision to hold the agreement, but he doesn’t remember the details about it, nor did he remember signing a cancellation. All that he remembered was the details he said in the meeting with the cabinet.
Tweissi added that he signed the authorisation of al-Dabbas in the following meeting without checking its details, and can’t remember when exactly the authorisation was signed.
He stressed that late al-Zoubi presented the Casino issue before the cabinet as the Aqaba agreement, and al-Dabbas discussed the economic aspects and the revenues of the project.
Tweissi explained that al-Zoubi said there was an agreement to establish a Casino in the Dead Sea, and that the tourism minister would be delegated to sign the deal.  But Tweissi was not informed about the deal for several reasons.
He added that knowing that al-Zoubi is the legal reference and that the administrative aspects require that the competent ministry should be aware of the issue, he supposed that the agreements were reviewed by the competent authorities first.
He added that they didn’t read the Aqaba Casino agreement, or the decision of the national council or the Dead Sea casino.
Head of Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) Dr Khaled Touqan, former minister of education and higher education in Bakhit’s government, said that he rarely attended the meetings of the mini cabinet.
Dr Touqan denied knowing anything about the Casino deal and stressed that he heard about it three months after the resignation of Bakhit’s government.
He added that during the two years in government, nothing related to the issue was submitted to him.
Touqan said he rememberes during Ali Abu Ragheb’s government, a casino project was discussed either in Aqaba or Dead Sea.
He added that the minister of finance at the time, Michel Marto with the economic team in the government, was assigned to negotiate with the investor and any company interested in establishing the casino.
Touqan added they understood that the team reached a memorandum of understanding about Aqaba Casino at the time and the Minister of endowment, Dr Ahmad Halil, was asked to leave the session. Touqan ensured that he knew nothing more about the casino issue.
He said the decision of the council  of ministers delegating al-Dabbas to sign the deal, which was shown to him by the court, was passed to him together with another set of decisions that needed his signature.
He stressed that he normally checked the decisions related to his ministry, but in the other decisions he only checked the signature of the president or the economic group and signs directly if he finds them.
He repeated that he knew nothing about the suspension or stopping the agreement because he was on an official mission abroad by the time the government ended. He never signed a similar decision, he added.
When discussed by the defence Lawyer Youssef al-Faoury, Touqan said he doesn’t remember if an agreement was signed about the Aqaba casino during Abu Rageb’s government, but knows that a team was assigned to study the establishment of a casino in Aqaba headed by Michel Marto.
He stressed that the casino issue was not included in the agenda of the meeting of the cabinet, and he has no idea about the dates of the decisions issued by the cabinet, specially which was shown to him by the court with his signature, adding that in some cases the decisions are signed on the same day of discussion.

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