By Ali Younes
When Jordanian Member of Parliament (MP) Mohammad Shawabkeh pulled a gun during a live television show In Amman last week, it was a shocking stunt that was the first of its kind even for Jordan a country that has become in recent years notorious for its tribal violence at universities and the corruption of its intelligence and security services.
Mohammed Shawabkeh pointed his weapon at the other guest Mansour Sayf al-Din Murad, an ex-MP last Thursday evening after he called him a “mafia thief”. Shawabka accused Murad of being a “spy” for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime. He first threw his shoe at Murad and then pulled out a silver gun. Shawabkah claimed later that he hit Murad because he insulted the Jordanian security and intelligence services.
Mohammad Shawbkah who became a member of parliament only few years ago, is an American citizen who lived and owned along with his other brothers’ five jewelry stores, under frequently changed names, in Santa Fe New Mexico. The Shawabkeh brothers, however, were the subject of repeated complaints and investigations by consumers and state agencies for their questionable and fraudulent business practices.
In 2009 the New Mexico’s attorney General office sued Mohammed “Mike” Suleiman Shawabkeh and Jamal “Jack” Sulieman Shawabkeh for misrepresenting and selling fake Jewelry as authentic hand-made Native-American jewelry.
The charges stem from repeated complaints that the Shawabkeh brothers engaged in fraudulent business practices that involved selling fake native American-Indian Jewelry in their stores. They were also charged of having “going out of business sale” signs when they were not, an illegal business practice in the state. State authorities have investigated the Shawbkeh brothers as far as back 1996 for numerous complaints of selling fake Jewelry.
The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported in 2009 that “In 1996, then-Attorney General Tom Udall entered into a consent decree with Jamal Shawabkeh — then also known as Sam Suleiman — and Khaledal Aishawabkey, also known as Kenny Suleiman, then doing business as Gallup Indian Jewelry Discount and Zuni Indian Jewelry Discount Outlet at 218 Old Santa Fe Trail. The address is now occupied by Gold House, another jewelry store run by other Shawabkehs.
The Shawabkah brothers ended up paying over $ 200,000 in restitution and fines, in the past few years to settle complains against them.
Pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi reported that MP Mohammad Shawabkah returned to Jordan around 2007, as a millionaire and immediately won a seat in the Jordanian parliament as a pro-government MP. Its reporter in Amman, Bassam Badareen, told me that Shawabkah “bought his seat in the parliament” which is something not unusual in Jordanian politics.
Jordanian parliamentary elections are notoriously rigged and citizens accuse the government and its intelligence agencies of rigging the elections in favor of corrupt MPs in order to pass pro-government legislation and undermine democratic reform.
Former head of Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID), the Mukhabarat, which is equivalent to the American CIA, General Mohammad Thahabi, is currently on trial for corruption and fraud while in office. Thahabi’s trial revealed that he had over $50 million in his own domestic bank accounts that he claimed that they were “gifts” given to him by foreign governments for his anti-terrorism efforts.
Court testimony also showed that Thahabi had arranged for several Iraqi nationals to acquire Jordanian citizenship in exchange of real estate gifts, and hundreds of thousands of thousands of dollars, court records showed.
Meanwhile, MP Shawabkeh’s gun stunt is clearly a violation of Jordan’s strict gun laws, but according to my sources in Amman, the government has not opened an investigation into Shawakah’s actions nor does it plan to do so in the near future according to those sources. The Parliament in the meantime did not censure Shawabkah and did not take any steps to have strip of him his parliamentary immunity that will possibly indicate a desire to prosecute him on part of the government.
When I posed the issue of parliamentary investigation to Badareen, he said rhetorically: “what parliament, this is a Parliament that most of its members were practically appointed by the Mukhabarat, and where its Speaker gives guns as gifts to his MP allies.”
– Ali Younes is a writer and journalist based in Washington D.C. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: [email protected].