WikiLeaks Document on Facilitating Selling Companies to Dubai Capital Incorrect

U.S. Embassy: 'No Comment.' Social Security Offers Clarification

AKEED, Anwar Ziadat and Lana Kazkaz

An investigation conducted by the Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) has revealed that the WikiLeaks document under the ID "10AMMAN87" was unrelated to "facilitating the selling of companies of the country and giving Dubai Capital intermediation rights to bring investors," as reported by the media. The WikiLeaks document under this ID was in fact titled "Jordan: New Cabinet Puts a Fresh Face on the Wall." This was a reference to the official directive to display the picture of Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II next to that of His Majesty the King.

The publishing of the document and the reply afterwards by former Prime Minister Samir Rifai piqued the interest of local news websites. Between 6 and 13 July 2018, these websites published more than 38 stories on "Samir Rifai and Jordan Dubai Capital Company" after the document was circulated on some social media accounts and an external website. AKEED did this report after receiving more than one request for verifying the truth of this information.

The story on the document ran as follows: "A U.S. State Department cable, leaked by WikiLeaks, revealed a series of circulars issued by the Cabinet of Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Rifai that are contrary to previous government policies."

The incorrect WikiLeaks document, dated 7 January 2010, notes "the issuance of instructions to facilitate the selling of state-owned companies to Dubai Capital Company…"

The AKEED investigation revealed that the document issued by U.S. Ambassador to Jordan R. Stephen Beecroft on 7 January 2010 spoke about the Cabinet of Prime Minister Samir Rifai, who was newly appointed then to this position, issuing "circulars to government offices that aim at illustrating a break from the policies of the previous government." It had nothing to do with the activities of Dubai Capital. Some local media outlets published a translation of this document on 4 January 2011.

Rifai's reply to his role in Dubai Capital focused on his denial of any connection to the company. His name has been linked to the company since he became prime minister in 2009. He said: "My employment connection with Jordan Dubai Capital ended around nine years ago. I did not own a single share in the company. Nor do I own a single share in any company for that matter. " Rifai said that this information is aimed at "mounting an attack and causing distortion for political purposes."

He explicitly called on the Social Security Corporation (SSC) to "break its silence and produce facts and figures on Jordan Dubai Capital and its shareholders and projects, and how its profit reflected on SSC and Jordanian citizens as shareholders." He said that he had repeatedly sent this message, but that there had been no response.

In the first reply concerning the case, the Social Security Investment Fund confirmed in an exclusive statement to AKEED that "the Social Security Corporation/Investment Fund (previously Investment Unit) was a founding partner of Jordan Dubai Capital by 25% of its capital in 2005. This continued until 2012 when the company liquidated all its investments." The Fund said that "the company had invested in numerous sectors, such as energy, infrastructure projects, and real estate."

On investment in the electricity sector, the Fund said that "it was announced that in 2007, the Jordanian Government sold 51% of its shares in the Central Electricity Generating Co. (CEGCO), per standard government procedures, to Energy Arabia (Enara), which was established by Jordan Dubai Energy-the investment arm of Jordan Dubai Capital. The Fund also purchased 9% of the capital of CEGCO in 2007. The Fund maintained its share of ownership of the company until that date."

According to the reply, "the Fund invested in electricity distribution companies. In 2011, it purchased the entire share of Jordan Dubai Capital in the Kingdom Electricity for Energy Investments Company, which is 51%. In 2014, the Fund increased its share in the Kingdom Electricity for Energy Investments Company by 19% by purchasing the share of one of the shareholders. Thus, the total share amounted to 70% of the capital of the Kingdom Electricity for Energy Investments Company."

It added: "The Social Security Investment Fund has numerous investments within the powers that are defined for adopting investment decisions. The managers of investment portfolios study available investment opportunities to make sure that they agree with the general investment objectives of the Fund, average return, risk ratio, exit policies, and others. Afterwards, the managers of investment portfolios submit recommendations regarding these investment opportunities to the Investment Committee."

The reply went on to state: "In light of the results of the financial, technical, and legal studies of any investment opportunity, the committee submits its recommendations to the Investment Council to adopt the appropriate decision within its powers and within the general framework of the investment policy of the Fund and the strategic distribution of assets, both of which are approved by the SSC Board of Directors. The Investment Fund eyes investment in vital sectors with a good return and acceptable risk ratios, including the energy sector. The Fund has direct and indirect investments through its different investment arms in the traditional energy projects (generation and distribution) and renewable energy in public and private equity companies with a total investment of more than 100 million dinars."

Rifai and Replies of U.S. Embassy

In the reply, Rifai, who was prime minister between 2009 and 2011 (year of Arab Spring), wondered why "the U.S. Embassy remained silent on the fabrication of a message and adding it to the series of WikiLeaks." The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor contacted the U.S. Embassy in Amman, which replied "no comment."

Rifai in WikiLeaks Documents

A monitoring by the Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) of WikiLeaks documents showed that the website contained the name of former Prime Minister Samir Rifai in 97 documents, including two documents only when he was CEO of Dubai Capital (JDC). Most of the reports on WikiLeaks about Samir Rifai were issued by "Strategic Forecasting," better known as Stratfor, which is a U.S. strategic and security studies center. The center is one of the most important private institutions concerned with the intelligence sector.

Two Documents of Dubai Capital on WikiLeaks

The content of the first document of Dubai Capital, published in 2013, goes back to 26 September 2007. It has to do with a statement by Samir Rifai within the context of "the announcement by Energy Arabia (Enara) of the purchase of 51% of CEGCO for $320 million. The purchase agreement and 10 other relevant agreements were signed to complete the privatization of CEGCO officially."

In the document, Rifai said: "We are very proud of this announcement. It is the biggest investment of Jordan Dubai Capital so far. It is also our first major investment in the energy sector. We are aware of the growing need in Jordan and the region for alternative sources of energy, which Jordan Dubai Energy seeks to provide."

The second document, published on 30 October 2007, stated the following: "In the October edition of Jordan Business magazine, JDC's Chief Executive Officer Samir Rifai noted that the privatization deal will yield better service to the average Jordanian consumer but not necessarily lower costs, unless the government decides to lower what it charges consumers. Rifai indicated that significant investment would be spent on upgrading the skills of CEGCO employees and finding more efficient ways to run the operation."   

Media Interest in Document

The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) followed what local news websites published on this subject 6-13 July 2018. News websites published 38 news items, according to Google, 31 of which depended on a post by the former prime minister on his personal page on Facebook. The post is 1,431 words. The websites republished the post, with an introduction that is not more than 50 words. Seven websites published analyses, which are closer to an opinion piece and which have similar content. These analyses adopt Rifai's viewpoint.  

On news sources, the AKEED Monitor observed that the media content published during that period was either without clear sources (7 items) or relied on one source (31 items). This shows the absence of a comprehensive picture in reporting on the story.

The following are some of the main headlines in the local media, observed by AKEED, on the incorrect document and Rifai's reply in the recent period: "Electronic Fabrication…It Only Needs Public Ready for Deception," "Samir Rifai: When Fabrication Exceeds All Limits and Silence on it Is Shameful," "Rifai Replies: Fabricated Document," "Samir Rifai Reveals for First Time Experience With Dubai Capital," and "Rifai: This Is Truth of Jordan Dubai Capital; Social Security Must Break Silence."

Here, we should note that Jordan Dubai Capital was first mentioned in the media 11 years ago. On 3 July 2007, the UAE newspaper Al Bayan published a story headlined "Dubai International Capital Invests in Minds, Seizes Business Opportunities."