Appeal rejected: Four face capital punishment for financial misconduct

Businessmen, minister sentenced to death as
Judges discuss asset seizure and redistribution

An appeals court has unanimously upheld convictions imposed against three business men and a government minister for financial misconduct. Talal Waleed, Majid Amoudi, Said Duale and former Minister for Zakat Syed Al Sisi were originally found guilty in 2047 for engaging in Riba and failing to collect Zakat from wealthy business associates after an internal audit found discrepancies in expected revenues.  The four men were later also found guilty of wage theft after operating a scheme that saw workers penalised for minor workplace infractions.

The 11 Judge panel included representatives from across the region

Speaking at the appeal, the lawyer for the former Minister for Zakat appealed for leniency, arguing that while the charges were serious, capital punishment was an excessive response for a crime that did not inflict any physical damage on individuals. In their concluding remarks however, the Judges rejected this suggestion outright, emphasising that economic damage was violence by nature:

The suggestion that depriving someone of their income or depriving the poor of their right to the wealth of the rich, isn’t violence because there were no lashes, no broken bones or bleeding limbs is naïve and arrogant. Depriving the poor of their zakat while protecting the rich is theft. Stealing the wages of your workers is also theft. What you did was injure already disenfranchised people by depriving them of economic security, of the right to food, shelter and a future. Your actions were corrupt and showed a total disregard for what Islam is. In essence you attacked the system and consequently there is no punishment suitable but capital punishment.

How were they discovered

The origins of this case began 3 years ago when the Khalifa ordered a secret internal audit of all treasury departments to review the conduct of ministers and monitor financial management. While the release of the report was met with approval, and the findings generally favourable, the publication of corrupt practices in the Department of Zakat were met with shock and disappointment.

Forensics specialists combed through thousands of boxes of evidence during the investigation

A group of forensic accountants, headed by Safa Iqbal were tasked with investigating these practices and led to a range of charges levelled against businessmen, landowners and public officials. While some cases are still pending, many individuals were found guilty and imprisoned, stripped of assets or, as seen today, sentenced to death. While Safa Iqbal is happy with how her team conducted themselves, and what they discovered, she said there are still entities acting outside the law:

We never expected to find such brazen abuses of office or such detailed economic conspiracies. It seems many businessmen and wealthy individuals are stuck with an antiquated idea that they have a right to their wealth. They’re wrong. We live in a system that gives certain rights to people and certain responsibilities to others. Wealthy individuals in this case have a responsibility to help the poor and give up their wealth annually to improve the lives of those less fortunate than them. This responsibility is non-negotiable and people out there that think they can escape it are living on borrowed time. The outcome from this sad incident is a clear warning. Do what’s right and pay your way or don’t and have everything taken from you.

The public’s response

Unsurprisingly, the public overwhelmingly supports the judge’s decision with people from across the economic and social divide supporting the use of capital punishment for financial crimes. Ismail Al Saydaliya, an Imam and part-time gardener, suggests such actions reinforce equality in the region:

Islam is a simple religion, and one of the things it asks you to do is help the poor. It’s not difficult. I don’t make that much money but I always find a way to give some of what I do make to those less fortunate than I. I also know for a fact that some of those people less fortunate than me also try to give to those less fortunate than even them. This is the spirit of humanity. Helping each other. So I have absolutely no sympathy when a wealthy individual tries to avoid their responsibility and avoid helping those that need help. It’s arrogant, it’s disrespectful and it goes against this great faith. If they’re too greedy to give up some of their wealth, then maybe taking their life will teach them some humility.

In the meantime, the Judges will meet with the Khalifas advisory panel to discuss a strategy for moving forward. The punishments are scheduled to take place within seven days though seizure and redistribution of their personal assets is expected to take longer. Further details will be published.

Do you think the punishment suits the crime?  Do you think financial crimes are comparable to violent crimes? Join us on our twitter and facebook page and have your say.

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