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      Kuwait Corruption Scandal Widens Into Vote Buying Probe

      Days after Kuwait's cabinet resigned amid a corruption scandal prosecutors are probing rumors of parliamentary vote buying
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 12/2/2011, 1:49 PM

      Millions of dollars have been deposited suspiciously into the bank accounts of 15 Kuwaiti MPs suspected of money laundering, Kuwait's al Jarida newspaper reported on Wednesday.

      Kuwait's central bank informed prosecutors that bank accounts held by the 15 lawmakers "have received suspicious deposits and the anti-money laundering law applies to them."

      But the central bank said in statement released via the national KUNA news-agency that reports of suspected money laundering are prepared by the Kuwait Financial Intelligence Unit and not the bank.

      The unit, attached to the finance ministry, "provides the prosecutor ... with its technical viewpoint on such operations," the bank explained in the statement.

      The bank also denied it had implicated anyone in suspected money laundering operations, saying crimes can only be established by the public prosecution and not the central bank.

      In September, Kuwait's public prosecutor launched an unprecedented probe into the bank accounts of the 15 lawmakers after three banks reported that large deposits were added to the accounts from unknown sources.

      The revelation led opposition protesters to storm Kuwait's parliament decrying corruption and demanding the resignation of prime minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

      Sheikh Nasser and his cabinet resigned on Wednesday, prompting Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad to appoint a caretaker cabinet to oversee new elections and run the nation in the interim.

      Nasser, a nephew of the emir, was appointed to the post in February 2006 and has so far resigned seven times since then due to political turmoil. Regional observers say his resignation may, yet again, be temporary.

      Al Jarida reported prosecutors planned to ask parliament to lift the immunity of the suspected MPs in order to question them on the source of the money.

      The opposition has alleged that the funds, estimated at $350 million, were paid by the government to secure votes on crucial issues, including motions of no-confidence against the premier and his ministers.

      The Kuwaiti government has denied the allegations. Al Jarida said the largest deposit for one MP was $7.3 million and $18.2 million in his wife's account. No names were published in the report but media had published some names in September.