By Adnan Al-Shabrawi

Finance Ministry gives new twist to crane crash probe

JEDDAH — The Finance Ministry has given a new twist to the Makkah crane crash probe by claiming that the giant crane was advised to be removed from its location 10 months before the tragedy that killed and injured hundreds of pilgrims last September.
In its report to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIP), the ministry, which represents the government in the Haram expansion projects, said it stopped reimbursing expenses for the crane 10 months earlier because it was no longer considered useful.
The BIP investigated an engineer from the ministry thrice during the past few months.
The engineer absolved the ministry of any responsibility in the crash and said it had asked for its removal but the project manager, despite assurances, did not do anything.
The engineer, who was not identified, said he was responsible for following up the expansion project with the Binladin Group and to make payments but had nothing to do with the safety measures of the project.
Fourteen people are on trial in the case. Newspaper reports said six Saudis, including a billionaire, as well as two Pakistanis, a Canadian, a Jordanian, a Palestinian, an Egyptian, an Emirati and a Filipino are on trial. The defendants’ names were not made public. The defendants are accused of negligence, damaging public property and ignoring safety guidelines.
Amid unusually strong winds, the 1,350-ton crane collapsed onto the Grand Mosque bringing down slabs of concrete on worshippers below.
Earlier reports said 170 employees of the Binladin Group had been questioned by investigators ahead of the court proceedings. Okaz said prosecutors decided not to file charges against 42 others who were under investigation, including 16 members of the Binladin family.
Dozens of cranes surround the Grand Mosque, part of a massive construction effort headed by the Binladin Group.