Will bootleg cigarettes bring a rare corruption conviction in Jordan?

Counterfeit cigarettes in neighboring Egypt. Source: <a href="https://www.thecairoscene.me/LifeStyle/10-Causes-of-Road-Rage-in-Cairo" target="_BLANK" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cairo Scene/Sarah Elmasry</a>
Counterfeit cigarettes in neighboring Egypt. Source: Cairo Scene/Sarah Elmasry

Will the year-old administration of Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Razzaz actually jail corrupt officials?

Now, a high-profile case implicating powerful businessmen and politicians, centering on contraband cigarettes, the so-called “Mutee cigarette trial” (after the main defendant, Awni Mutee), will showcase the new government’s capacity to actually prosecute high-level wrongdoers in a country where this is all but unheard of.

In Jordan, says one anti-corruption campaigner, “[y]ou don’t see corrupt people behind bars… [s]o people never trust anything the government says or does.”

So far, the government has not only been able to produce convincing evidence, but accuses Mutee of evading US$760 million in taxes by illegally manufacturing cigarettes in Jordan’s free trade zone.

According to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Mutee’s ring includes “top government officials, 25 companies and 27 defendants, six of whom are now on the run, including Mutee’s son, Bashar.”

In a most unusual development, the government has also publicized the case in the national press and allowed robust discussion on social media.

Given more than 100 witnesses and a defense to be mounted by Mutee’s tenacious legal team, no ruling is unlikely to occur soon, however.

Source: Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project

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