Whatever its faults, American culture has a strong aversion to white-collar corruption.
Corporate scandals like Enron shock us to our core. But in many parts of the world, Enron-like fraud is par for the course. Throughout the Middle East, corruption runs rampant in the business world. High-class thieves are aided and abetted by politicians whose hands are just as dirty.
But a new nonprofit, the Global Justice Foundation, is gearing up to fight business corruption around the world. Founded by international businessman Omar Ayesh, the group’s sole mission is exposing international corruption.
Former independent counsel Ken Starr and former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell are also members of the Global Justice Foundation.
Among the first cases tackled by the Global Justice Foundation is the case of UAE-based Tameer Holding. Ayesh alleges it is one of the largest-ever real estate frauds.
Ayesh, a Palestinian Canadian who lives in the United States, says the case against Saudi brothers Abdullah Al Rajhi and Ahmed Al Rajhi has been tied up in the courts of the United Arab Emirates for 11 years. The Saudi connection could run even deeper, as Ahmed Al Rajhi is one of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s cabinet ministers.
This kind of alleged white-collar fraud and cronyism can only hurt the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia at a time when they have the ear of President Donald Trump.
After all, who will want to do business and invest in those countries if nobody respects the law? Adherence to basic legal norms is why Singapore and Hong Kong have been so attractive to business interests. When the commitment to the rule of law fades, so does the attractiveness of the country for foreign trade and commerce. Just look at Hong Kong, where mainland China’s interference is risking the island’s reputation as business-friendly.
U.A.E. leaders, including Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, tout their commitment to reform. But actions speak louder than words—a point Powell made at the launch of the Global Justice Foundation. We hear a lot about how far the Middle East lags behind the first world in human rights—especially in areas like freedom of the press, women’s rights, and religious liberty. But as the Global Justice Foundation argues, there can be no human rights when there is rampant cronyism and corruption at the highest levels of society. High-level corruption among government and business leaders also hinders economic progress, Powell says.
“If Dubai wants to be the financial capital of the Middle East, it is going to have to create a legal system that pays more than lip service to the rule of law,” the former federal prosecutor said at the launch of the Global Justice Foundation.
Starr agreed, saying absolute power corrupts many Middle Eastern leaders.
“No one is above the law is easy to say and hard to achieve, especially when you have power,” Starr said. “There needs to be an avenue where disputes, commercial and otherwise, can be quickly and fairly addressed.”
Regardless of the Tameer case’s eventual outcome, the Global Justice Foundation will surely have its hands full in the Middle East. The nonprofit promotes “power, not pity” for citizens of developing nations, and “human rights through rule of law.”