Corruption is one of the biggest problems faced by any surviving country in the world. Today, bribes have become a common practice and government officials have turned against their own people, exploiting them by promising foreign residency and employment. A similar tragedy befell on Kuwaiti bidoons or stateless residents, and common Bangladeshi workers.
However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the public pressure has greatly increased in Kuwait to address the problem of corruption in the stateless resident and migrant labor residency programs run by the Kuwaiti government. In 2020, Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior launched a campaign and convicted the three most wanted officials, namely Mazen Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah – former assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Interiors, Shahid Islam – former Bangladeshi MP, and Bashar Kiwan – French-Syrian fugitive, on the grounds of bribery and human trafficking. Moreover, this entire controversy even involved paying large funds to government officials in order to issue Kuwait Article 17, which are temporary documents that do not confer nationality, and Comoros Islands Passports for Kuwait’s bidoon residents, also commonly known as stateless residents.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior revealed that approximately 17,000 bidoon or stateless residents had been tricked into paying 3,000 dinars, equaling to $9,770, each in bribes between 2014 and 2018, in order to obtain Article 17 documents and Comoros Islands’ passports. When the case was properly investigated, the Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interiors General Sheikh Mazen Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah was also found guilty and was arrested for accepting bribes.
However, the mastermind behind this entire plan was the man named Basheer Kiwan, now a Syrian-French fugitive who is wanted for multiple cases, including human trafficking, money laundering, and racketeering for defrauding Kuwaiti bidoon residents. Basheer promoted a parallel scheme through which he promised 3,000 bidoon or stateless residents passports for Comoros Islands for a nominal fee of 2,000 dinars each. Obviously, the passports were never issued to anyone who has paid the fees.
Because of this fraudulent scheme, Basheer Kiwan has also been separately indicted in the Comoros Islands, alongside its former President Ahmed Sambi, who is also known to be a partaker in this scheme. Former President Ahmed Sambi not only helped Basheer implement the scheme, but also defrauded the Comorian government in a broader passport sales scheme which siphoned up to $200 million from the government.
In another similar case, Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior General Sheikh Mazen Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah, and the former Bangladeshi MP Shahid Islam was convicted and charged on the grounds of money laundering and human trafficking. In this case too, common Bangladeshi workers were exploited and tricked into paying fees in exchange for facilitating residency in Kuwait. However, the fees paid by the Bangladeshi workers could only fund bribes and serve as gifts for Kuwaiti Government officials.