Omani spy chief revealed as owner of John Terry's $22m house in England
An Omani spy chief responsible for a crackdown on anti-corruption protests purchased a property worth around $22m from former England and Chelsea football team captain John Terry, Declassified UK has revealed.
As effective head of the security and intelligence agencies, General Sultan bin Mohammed al-Naamani last month oversaw a crackdown on protesters who were angry about unemployment and government nepotism.
Naamani purchased the luxury home in Surrey, England in 2014 while working as a government minister.
News site Declassified UK reported that Naamani's ownership of the property, which has nine bedrooms and a lake, raised questions about how government ministers in Oman spent public money, particularly as the Gulf state is suffering from an economic crisis.
Middle East Eye has approached the Omani foreign ministry for comment.
At the time, it was reported that Naamani was purchasing the property on behalf of Sultan Qaboos, the former ruler of Oman, who died in 2020.
However, according to Declassified UK, Land Registry records show that Naamani had always been the outright owner of the property.
Oman, a country of 4.6 million people, of whom more than 40 per cent are foreigners, has been hit hard by the fall in world crude prices since 2014 and the coronavirus pandemic.
The sultanate had been counting on tourism to boost its flagging economy but the virtual collapse of international leisure travel has set back those plans.
Oman's GDP contracted 6.4 per cent last year, while government debt rose to 81 per cent of GDP, from 60 per cent in 2019, according to International Monetary Fund figures.
Unemployment is running at as much as 10 per cent despite government efforts to create more jobs for citizens, in a region that has relied on cheap foreign labour for decades.
'He cannot be held accountable'
At one point during the recent protests, crowds of demonstrators gathered in the town of Bidiya near to where Naamani was believed to own a holiday villa.
“[Naamani] has so much power he doesn’t need to justify his actions - whatever he does effectively has the force of law and he cannot be held accountable," Nabhan al-Hanashi, chairman of the Omani Centre for Human Rights, told Declassified UK.
"The people like him who rule Oman have made it legal to steal the country’s wealth."
In April 2020, Oman ordered state-owned enterprises to accelerate the process of replacing foreign staff with Omani citizens.
It gave them until July 2021 to draw up firm timetables.
Oman is known for its rich heritage, scenic coastline and stunning terrain, but it is also seen by western powers as a key regional mediator with Iran and the Houthi movement in Yemen.