A Bahraini boy waves a Palestinian flag (left) and a Bahraini flag (right) during a small rally in support of Palestinian rights outside a mosque in Manama, Bahrain. Image Credit: AP

Manama: Mansour Bin Rajab, a Bahraini Minister of State without portfolio, has refused to comment on the status of a director in charge of his office who was questioned by authorities on charges of money laundering, which according to reports, amounted to more than 12 million Bahraini dinars (Dh116.3 million).

"I do not know anything about his questioning and you should ask him about what happened to him," Bin Rajab said, addressing visitors to his weekly majlis (open house).

A media report said that security authorities had asked Bin Rajab and the director not to communicate with each other throughout the investigation.

According to Al Ayam daily, the director could be charged with money laundering, covering up money laundering operations, cooperating with a foreign organisation and divulging information to a foreign country. Under Bahrain's laws, money laundering charges carry a sentence of up to 15 years.

The director, however, insists that he had been called in as a witness.

Quoting unnamed sources, Al Ayam said that the money laundering operations extended to Bahrain, Kuwait, Dubai, Iran and some European countries and that one woman had been arrested in Kuwait in relation to the scheme. Bin Rajab, who was smoking throughout the meeting, refused to comment on whether he had received any call from senior officials following the publication of the reports on his interrogation.

The minister was allegedly called in for questioning on Thursday evening.

The Interior Ministry, in a brief statement, said that an official had been arrested on the charges of money laundering inside Bahrain and abroad. It was the first time that a serving minister was detained in Bahrain's history since it attained independence in 1971.

Brigadier Rashid Bu Humaid, the Ministry's Assistant Undersecretary for Legal Affairs, said that the suspicion of authorities was aroused in early 2009.

He said they then started monitoring the suspect's activities, meetings and his communication with aides and contacts abroad.