Yemen’s central bank dismisses UN corruption allegations

CAIRO (AP) — Yemen’s central bank dismissed United Nations allegations that the Yemeni government misused millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia to buy essential commodities for the Yemeni people

A report by a panel of U.N. experts released to the media this week accused the internationally recognized government of implementing a scheme to illegally divert to traders $423 million in Saudi money.

The report says the funds were meant to buy rice and other supplies for Yemenis suffering from the country’s six-year civil war.

“The government of Yemen is, in some cases, engaging in money-laundering and corruption practices that adversely affect access to adequate food supplies for Yemenis, in violation of the right to food,” the panel said.

The Central Bank of Yemen said Wednesday the report was based on “misleading claims and information” propagated by “enemies of Yemen.”

The Yemeni government had not responded to the report as of Thursday afternoon.

According to the U.N. report, the country’s Aden-based central bank deviated from standard trade finance procedures and manipulated the foreign exchange market to launder “a substantial part” of the Saudi funds in “a sophisticated” scheme.

The $423 million scheme involved illegally transferring public money to traders, with 48% going to a single holding corporation, the Hayel Saeed Anam Group, known as HSA.

The HSA Group said in a statement the allegations were “baseless” and denied them “in the strongest terms.”

The CBY said the Saudi money was disbursed according to “highly transparent procedures” that met international standards of due diligence, according to an official statement.

The bank vowed to provide a thorough rebuttal backed by evidence and documents at a later stage, the statement said.

Yemen’s conflict between a Saudi-led coalition supporting the internationally recognized government and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels has been catastrophic, killing more than 112,000 people. It has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, brought Yemen to the brink of famine and wrecked infrastructure.

The war began with the 2014 Houthi takeover of the north, where the majority of Yemenis live, including the capital, Sanaa. This prompted a destructive air campaign by the Saudi-led coalition the following year, aimed at restoring the government.

The U.N. experts also accused the Houthi rebels of diverting at least $1.8 billion in aid funds in 2019 that was supposed to go to the government to pay salaries and provide basic services to citizens.

The report said the Houthis perform government functions including collecting taxes and other state revenue, “a large portion of which is used to fund their war effort” — not to help the Yemeni people.

Separately, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs expressed concerns Friday for civilians in and to the south of the strategic port city of Hodeida, where clashes have been raging between the Houthis and government forces since mid-January.

The statement says initial reports by the relief agency indicates civilian casualties, mostly women and children, as well as damage to houses and farms in the district of Hays and the town of Durayhimi. At least 700 people were displaced as a result of the shelling, added the statement.

“Indiscriminate attacks on residential areas are a breach of international humanitarian law and must stop immediately,” said Auke Lootsma, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

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