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Dubai: A high-ranking Kuwaiti government official has been sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined over $15 million for embezzling large sums of employee salaries, significantly inflating his own government salary in the process.

The ruling was made by the Kuwaiti Court of Cassation on Thursday, marking a significant stride in the country’s ongoing battle against corruption.

The accused, who was working in the payroll department of the General Directorate of Fire, manipulated the Civil Service Bureau system to increase his salary repeatedly. According to sources, he was found guilty of embezzling approximately 2 million Kuwaiti dinars (roughly $6.4 million) over a period of two years, making his wage the highest governmental salary in Kuwait.

The official, known locally as the “king of swimming pools,” used his ill-gotten gains to establish a store in the Mubarak market, selling swimming pools and precious stones.

The embezzlement crime was discovered when a senior colleague stumbled upon a salary certificate for the official that showed an income exceeding 4,000 dinars ($13,000), despite his real salary at the time being only 2,000 dinars ($6,600). Within months, he had inflated his salary to reach 42,000 dinars ($140,000).

The Court of Cassation’s ruling followed an appeal made by the official after a previous judgement by the Criminal Court, which had fined him 4 million dinars ($13 million).

The verdict comes in the wake of Kuwait’s extensive anti-corruption campaign launched in early 2020, which has already implicated several former and current deputies and high-ranking officials. Emphasizing the no-tolerance policy towards corruption, Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al Sabah has vowed that no corrupt individuals will enjoy immunity, regardless of their status or affiliation.