The growing financial empire run by Houthi militias in Yemen has confounded many who do not understand how large sums of money are being secured at a time 80% of the war-torn country’s population lives off humanitarian relief.
Houthis, since staging a nationwide coup in 2014, have been keen on seizing the assets and funds of rival politicians, lawmakers and businessmen and taking over the oil sector, foreign trade and contracting work in Yemen.
Monopolies controlled by Houthis are largely operated by a committee chaired by Saleh al-Shaer, a senior official who serves as the head of logistical support at the Iran-backed militias’ military wing.
Shaer, also known as Abu Yasser, is the mastermind behind securing supplies to Houthi fighters at frontlines and has been mentioned in many UN reports on monitoring compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, especially those barring arms delivery to militias.
The Houthi leader, who is in his 60’s, was born in the Razih district of Saada governorate.
Notorious for smuggling weapons, Shaer is on a number of international sanctions lists. Also, the Saudi-led Arab Coalition has offered a five-million-dollar reward for information that would bring him to justice.
Shaer enjoys a close relationship with Houthi chief Abdul Malik Badreddin al-Houthi. He was among the first to join the insurgency and gained his reputation through arming militants with anti-tank weapons.
Earning al-Houthi’s trust has placed him at the top of the chain of command running Midi port in the northwestern Hajjah governorate.
Shaer occupied many key roles among the Houthis, but his recent designation as “judicial guard” of assets seized from opposition figures has further expanded his reach.
He was tasked with plundering the homes of officials in the legitimate Yemeni government, including the assets of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.
The Houthi leader has been employing his newly acquired powers to blackmail politicians and merchants, forcing them to sell their homes and lands to Houthi militia leaders at low prices.