Chiara Onassis | 12 February 2012
SANA’A: Yemen’s Sheikh Hameed al-Ahmar’s name has come to be associated again with scandal, which could potentially send shockwaves not only through the Yemeni community, but across European Union institutions.
Sheikh al-Ahmar, who is one of Yemen’s wealthiest businessmen, with the Times having estimated his personal fortune to several tens of billions of dollars, also hails from Yemen’s most prominent and powerful tribal family.
Younger brother to Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar, the mighty leader of the Hasheed confederation of tribes, al-Ahmar is also President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s most virulent and vocal opponent, often having accused the veteran autocrat of abusing his position for personal gain.
Hameed, who is well-known for his less than savory business ethics in the country, has often been linked to corruption, embezzlement and countless cases of abuse of power without the justice system ever being able to pin him down for more than a speeding ticket.
Only one month ago, however, a Dubai court indicted him in a case of money laundering, claiming that the Sheikh was using the Emirates to syphon hundreds of millions of dollars.
Today, men working closely with the Sheikh revealed under cover of anonymity, for they feared for their lives, that Hameed had several prominent politicians and foreign officials on his payroll against “favors and privileges.”
“The Sheikh wants to ensure that his reign over Yemen will survive beyond the end of the regime. He actually hopes that with Saleh gone he will eventually become Yemen’s most powerful man,” said a close associate.
Troubling, the source told Bikyamasr.com that Michele Cervone d’Urso, the European Union ambassador to Yemen would be receiving $50,000 per month from the Sheikh as the two men were business partners.
Bikyamasr.com could not independently verify this accusation.
Since al-Ahmar happens to be a leading member of al-Islah, Yemen’s Islamist political faction, and therefore an acting political force in Yemen, several of the Sheikh’s detractors are already raising several question marks over the ethics of such dealings, whispering of a more sinister reality.
According to sources on the ground in Sana’a, the situation could quickly devolve into a widespread scandal that could engulf European institutions and officials.