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‘Tobacco case’ defendants sentenced, Mutee gets 20 years

1. Tobacco Case new
The State Security Court announces its verdict on the so-called “tobacco case” at a press conference in Amman, on September 29, 2021. (Photo: Amir Khalifa/Jordan News)
AMMAN — The State Security Court on Wednesday sentenced Awni Mutee to 20 years in prison for endangering public safety and security in the so-called “tobacco case”.اضافة اعلان

The court issued its verdict following a two-year trial involving former government officials and businessmen, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra.

The court sentenced a number of individuals and companies to pay a total of JD179 million.

The court also ordered the confiscation of all materials, vehicles, equipment, jewelry, cash, and weapons seized in the case.

Mutee, the principal defendant in the case, was charged with the felony of carrying out acts that endanger the safety and security of society and endanger economic resources.

The court found Mutee not guilty on felony money laundering and bribery charges citing lack of sufficient evidence, and dropped secondary charges against him of “changing the economic nature of the state” as an accomplice.

Furthermore, Mutee was found guilty of misdemeanor customs smuggling, merchandise fraud, sales tax evasion, and the illegal use of a registered trademark.

Accordingly, the court handed down Mutee a 20-year prison term, in addition to a further two years and a fine of JD20,000.

During a reading of the verdict, the civilian president of the court, Nasser Al-Salamat, said that the decision came in light of the severity of the defendant’s crimes.

The second defendant in the case, Salameh Al-Alamat, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The court decided, unanimously, pursuant to the provisions of the counterterrorism law and amendments thereto.

It also imposed a fine of JD20,000 on Alamat.

The court initially sentenced Bashar Awni Yousef Issa to five years in prison plus payment of court fees on the first charge.

The court later reduced that sentence to three and a half years plus fees, citing that the defendant was a young man, married and the head of a family, and as such it decided to give him a chance to reform himself and straighten his life out.

The court also reduced the sentences of the following defendants: Issa Youssef Mutee Issa, Muhammad Al-Alamat, Ismail Abu Mazgul, Amer Al-Alamat, Raed Hamdan, Mutasem Hajeer, Seifeddine Abu Raqah, Yazid Bouja, and Mahmoud Hammad.

The court had at first sentenced them all to five years in prison each before commuting their sentences to three and a half years each, citing the same mitigating circumstances.

The court decided to convict several companies charged in the “tobacco case”, imposing fines on them. The Military Public Prosecution requested that the court impose the maximum penalties on the defendants in the case.

The court also sentenced the former director general of the Customs Department, Wadah Al-Hamoud, to 10 months in prison after finding him guilty of abuse of power, and acquitted him of the remaining charges.

Hamoud has already served this period in prison while awaiting the conclusion of the case against him.

Hamoud was also acquitted of the charge of endangering the safety and security of society, and the felony charge of accepting a bribe, as well as the felony charges of customs smuggling, and tax evasion.

The court also acquitted former minister Mounir Owais on all charges.

In June 2019, the court released Owais on bail of JD100,000. The court explained that the decision came “in view of the circumstances of the case, and in view of the man’s old age and health conditions, while maintaining the travel ban against him, and the seizure of his movable and immovable assets.”

The court sentenced “Jaafar Abu Al-Failat” to pay a fine of JD16,566,733 in the same case.

The court found that the defendants had taken advantage of a government incentive meant to encourage investment in Jordan.

The court also found that defendants had planned to evade customs and use trademarks, endangering Jordanian economic resources.

The court noted that the gravity of the damage done to Jordan’s public treasury caused by the defendant’s organized scheme was unusual.

According to the indictment previously filed by the public prosecution, the damage to the national economy amounted to some JD539 million.

The case goes back to July 2018, when customs officials raided several warehouses at the Zarqa Free Zone, and found materials for manufacturing tobacco products.

Other raids of three companies in Rama in the Jordan Valley also netted materials used in making cigarettes. A further raid, targeting a juice factory in Um Al-Amad in Madaba, found a tobacco production line inside the factory. 

The main defendant in the case, Mutee had fled the country to Lebanon a day before the raids.

The defendant was later successfully extradited from Turkey to Jordan in December 2018, following the direct intervention of His Majesty King Abdullah II, who spoke to the Turkish President directly on the matter.

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