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Exclusive - Greed Pits Houthi Leaders against Each Other

Exclusive - Greed Pits Houthi Leaders against Each Other

Tuesday, 7 August, 2018 - 07:30
Houthi supporters in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. (Reuters)
Sanaa - Asharq Al-Awsat
Conflicts have intensified in recent weeks between the Iran-backed Houthi militia leaderships over reaping funds and resources from government institutions that are under their control. These disputes have been marred by accusations of corruption and looting that were verified by official reports that revealed the extent to which the militants have abused Yemen’s resources for their war effort.

Informed sources spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat of fierce disputes between leading Houthi member Fares al-Habari, who was appointed by the group as Raymah governor, and local forces. The disputes had escalated into an armed clash that forced Habari to flee to Sanaa only a few weeks after he was appointed to his post.

The sources said that Habari had sought since the early days of his appointment to seize as much money as possible, control Raymah resources and usurp the privileges of local leaders. This prompted them to file a complaint against him to Houthi leaderships in Sanaa.

For his part, Habari accused the local leaderships of being disloyal to the Houthis and of being lax in their efforts to recruit members to the battlefront due to their deep loyalty to late former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed by the Houthis in December. The leaderships threatened to assassinate Habari after he had ordered his loyalists to collect taxes for his own personal use.

The sources added that so-called Houthi supreme political council head Mahdi Mshat had summoned several of the local leaders in Raymah to persuade them to accept Habari’s appointment as governor, but they refused. This prompted Mshat to task a local figure to a caretaker role and order Habari against clashing with Raymah officials.

The sources added that Habari had seized vast areas in Sanaa and Hodeidah and forced dozens of merchants to pay him in return for receiving protection.

In the Dhamar region, local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that disputes erupted between the Houthi governor, Mohammed Hussein al-Maqdishi, and militia leaderships over the customs fees imposed on merchants and importers.

The sources explained that the militia appointed one of its leaders to collect these fees, which are imposed on products that are brought in from liberated regions, such as Aden and Marib. Maqdishi, however, rejected this measure and insisted on appointing one of his loyalists to the post. The Houthis in Sanaa have since been trying to contain the dispute.

In Houthi-controlled Sanaa, the mounting disputes between the illegitimate Houthi government and its lawmakers led to the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate government corruption. The committee released a report that exposed Houthi corruption through policies that are aimed at destroying Yemen’s economy and starving its people.

Asharq Al-Awsat obtained a copy of the report that showed the massive corruption committed by the Houthis whereby they looted more than 6 billion rials worth of oil derivatives in one month. They also reaped funds from the shipments of polluted fuel.

The report accused the group of preventing ships from docking in Hodeidah’s strategic port and deliberately delaying in the unloading of cargo in order to manipulate prices. It also accused them of causing a hike in food prices due to illegal taxes that are imposed by checkpoints. Furthermore, it charged that the Houthis and major traders were complicit in manipulating prices.

The Houthis were accused by the committee of looting more than 33 percent of customs revenues and more than 60 billion rials in one year. They also failed to pay the salaries of public workers even though they had reaped nearly a trillion rials through official means in 2017.

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