Corruption and anti-corruption efforts in official Yemeni institutions have once again put the country under the spotlight. The extent of the problem goes beyond local government ministries and offices, as has been revealed by the reporting illegalities committed in Yemeni embassies abroad. The Yemen Observer has been investigating the issue for several months.In Yemeni Embassy of the United Kingdom it has been found that Yemeni nationals and foreigners are asked to pay one hundred pounds sterling for approval of a single document, whether personal or commercial. “You have to deposit the total amount for the number of documents you need approved in a private company account,” a Yemeni-British businessman told the Yemen Observer. “I discovered from the bank receipt that the account is under the name of the financial officer of the embassy. When a client submits the bank receipts and receives acknowledgement from the financial officer, he sticks four different stamps on the required document or documents, showing a total cost of one hundred US dollars,” the businessman explained. Not the one hundred pounds that are actually received. “One hundred pounds sterling is nearly US $190,” he added, “so he makes about US $90 after each and every document that needs the embassy’s approval. This is illegal money. It first goes to a private account, and second it is more than the requested sum printed on stamps.” The businessman, who has been living in the UK for more than six years, said that some embassy officials on two-year terms buy their own houses in London or other parts of Britain, in reference to the former ambassador and his financial assistant. “They further use student money for private business,” he said. “They hold scholarship money back for more than three months, sometimes using it in private businesses. Their payments to students are irregular, forcing the students spend extra time and money running around after money for living expenses. I believe the head of the mission knows what’s going on.” Mohammed Hatem, Deputy Foreign Minister of Financial Affairs, confirmed that the financial officer in London had not returned home even though his term of office concluded some six months ago. “His justification for staying in the UK is that his mother is receiving treatment at a London hospital.” “This raises a question mark over his integrity,” Muhy Al-Dhabbi, First Deputy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Observer. “We are very concerned about the situation in our embassies abroad.” A senior source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the former ambassador in London, Mutahar Al-Saeede, also a former minister, had created a great deal of angst in the ministry. “He used to cause to us a whole variety of troubles,” the officials told the Observer. A new Yemeni ambassador has been put in place in London. In Saudi Arabia corruption on a similar scale has been reported at the consulate mission. At the Yemeni Consulate in Jeddah, officials receive 80 Saudi Riyals (SR) in cash for approving or stamping documents, while the actual stamp value 80 Yemeni Rials. “It is unclear whether the currency is in Saudi or Yemeni Rials (YR),” a Yemeni immigrant in Jeddah told the Yemen Observer. “I think the “Rial” printed on the stamp refers to Yemeni currency.” The irony is that SR 1 is worth more than YR 52. This means that the official amount that should go the government is less than SR 2, yet SR 78 is the sum taken by the officials. The same source revealed to the Yemen Observer, on condition of anonymity, that the consulate takes SR 300 to SR 500 to approve a divorce or marriage document of a Yemeni couple. The amount ranges between SR 1000 to SR 1500 should a member of the couple be a foreigner. “The money is taken without any official receipt or stamps,” the source said. “If someone loses their passport or it needs renewal,” the source added, “the consulate charges them a total of SR 390, while in Yemen the official fee is YR 2500, which is less than SR 50. However, people can receive receipts of SR 300 in this case.” However, Mr. Hatem of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Observer that his ministry instructs Yemeni consulates abroad to apply hard currency and not in local currency. For example, to approve a personal document, a consulate is obliged to charge Yemeni or foreign nationals between US $10 and US $30. Consulates are supposed to take between US $100 and US $ 200 for major commercial issues and documents. Sheikh Faisal Ameen Abu Ras, announced his resignation as Member of Parliament earlier in September, and said he was also resigning from the ruling party which, according to him, was failing to implement its program. “I resigned after being convinced that the House is unable to do anything about mass corruption in the government,” Abu Rass said. Abu Ras told Yemen Observer after his resignation that he had demanded the Minister of Foreign Affairs be questioned in parliament over corruption in Yemeni embassies abroad. He said that one of the most corrupt embassies of all is the Yemeni embassy in Beirut. “The ambassador,” he said then, “appointed his wife as financial officer of the embassy completely illegitimately. The ambassador, whose brief also covers Cyprus, contravenes the law and uses government money for personal benefit.” Mr. Hatem confirmed that the Beirut case was immediately resolved. Other questions over finance, private vehicles and reception parties were reported in Yemen’s embassy in Beirut, and confirmed by the deputy minister. In September, Yemen recalled nearly two score diplomats working abroad in a move to reform the diplomatic service, the Yemeni foreign minister said. “We decided to call back 38 diplomats working abroad,” the minister, Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi, told a cultural forum in Sana'a, “as part of a plan to rejuvenate the diplomatic corp.” Al-Qirbi described the decision as “irreversible”, in the interests of putting into effect “real reforms in the functioning of the foreign ministry.” The assignment of Yemeni ambassadors to 14 countries was approved last month. The countries include Great Britain, Egypt, Turkey, France, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Syria.