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Kuwait Ports Authority director under investigation for assault




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Two arms of the Kuwaiti government have opened inquiries into allegations that Sheikh Yusuf Al-Abdullah (pictured), a member of the Kuwaiti royal family and director of the Kuwait Ports Authority, assaulted an expat working at a local business’s warehouse.

For his part, Abdullah maintains that he was antagonized by security guards at the warehouse for performing his duties, inspecting a business within the KPA’s jurisdiction.

The security footage of the incident, which went viral on Twitter and was shared by highly followed accounts like Media Court, shows the Director General outside the warehouse entrance with an entourage of officials. At one point, he charges toward the lone security guard seen on camera, who had a phone in hand. He then grabs the phone from the guard and slaps him across the face.

The video has caught the attention of Kuwaiti leadership. Some members of Kuwait’s parliament, including Abdul Karim Al-Kandari and Mohammed AlMutair, have issued statements condemning the official’s conduct and calling for an investigation.

In the wake of the outcry of criticism, the Minister of Commerce said it would form a fact-finding committee. The Complaints and Grievances Committee of the National Office for Human Rights has also submitted an inquiry to the Minister of Commerce and Industry. 

The incident occurred during a visit Abdullah made in late March to Amin International Company for the Transport of Valuables and Guarding Facilities at Shuwaikh Port. Abdullah suspected that the company was laundering money and seized 100 million dinars from Amin International’s warehouse and submitted a complaint to the Attorney General, according to a public disclosure by Amin’s parent company, KGL. 

After a 16-hour investigation, the Public Prosecution returned the 100m dinars to Amin International and determined that there was no wrongdoing. KGL called the complaint a “malicious attack” and noted that Amin International “has been allocated a storage space to store the transferred funds, as part of its licensed purposes to transfer, sort, count and store funds belonging to many local banks in Kuwait, commercial companies and banking services companies, in addition to feeding ATMs, 24-hour automation inside Kuwait.” KGL disputed Abdullah’s claims that the funds were from an unknown source, and the logistics company says they submitted all supporting documents that show the source of the funds, the nature of its contracts, and its relevant business activity. 


Even as the controversy continues to swirl, the KPA has shown no indication that it intends to back down.

On the same day video of Abdullah slapping the security guard was released, the head of public relations for the KPA, Naseer AlShelami, tweeted a different video of Abdullah walking outside the Amin warehouse and panned to a security guard holding a dog on a leash in the periphery. AlShelami included a statement with the video that some have interpreted as racially charged given the guard’s African background, writing “…does a minister or member of parliament accept that a director general and law enforcement officials from 6 government agencies are threatened with dogs in the possession of African guards!! Are we in a country or a jungle?”

This is not the first controversy involving Abdullah, whose role as KPA director gives him authority over some of the most strategically important shipping ports in the gulf region. 

In 2016, during a meeting with the Ministry of Finance’s Financial Observes Authority, which oversees the KPA’s payroll and finances, Abdullah became frustrated and allegedly assaulted two financial observers. It was reported that the financial observers were taken to a local hospital and filed a police report. However, Abdullah also filed a police report and claimed that the individuals insulted and assaulted him first and that he responded in kind.

Operators in the port have alleged that the KPA under Abdullah's leadership has played favorites and protects the interests of a handful of companies with close relationships with port authority leadership. For example, in early 2020, the Kuwaiti Ports Authority advanced a policy that would limit access to Shuaiba Port, one of the most trafficked in the state’s port system, to only five designated companies. The KPA argued the move was necessary to improve commercial port services and limit access to companies that are not qualified to perform stevedoring and handling in the ports belonging to the Authority. However, as the business community tells it, the policy was a “guillotine,” putting them at a competitive disadvantage and pushing them towards bankruptcy, during a time when so many logistics companies were suffering due to COVID-19. They claimed that the policy change is a veiled attempt to benefit favored operators at the detriment of other vendors.

Following the public outcry, the KPA said they would pause the policy while they investigate the business communities’ concerns. But while the business community was able to get a temporary reprieve, many are concerned that the Director General will reinstate it at any time.

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