Iraq loses $8 billion through corruption

Iraq's top corruption fighter said that $8 billion in government money was wasted or stolen over the past three years and claimed he was threatened with death after opening an investigation into scores of Oil Ministry employees.

Iraq loses $8 billion through corruption

Iraq'stop corruption fighter said that $8 billion in government money was wasted orstolen over the past three years and claimed he was threatened with death afteropening an investigation into scores of Oil Ministry employees.

In the chaos and lawlessness of Iraq, such threats are not takenlightly. Radi al-Radhi, who runs the Public Integrity Commission, leads one ofthe more dangerous missions in the country. He said in an interview with TheAssociated Press that 20 members of the organization have been murdered sinceit began its work.

In perhaps the most publicized recent case, an estimated $2 billiondisappeared from funds to rebuild the electricity infrastructure.

Former Electricity Minister Ayham al-Samaraie, who holds both U.S. and Iraqicitizenship, was convicted in that case and sentenced to two years in prison.He escaped from an Iraqi-run jail in the Green Zone on Dec. 17 and turned up inChicago on Jan.15. Al-Samaraie has said the Americans helped him escape.

Al-Radhi said the commission has investigated about 2,600 corruption casessince it was established in March 2004, a few months before the United States returned sovereignty to Iraq. Heestimated $8 billion has vanished or been misappropriated.

Corruption in the country, while traditionally rampant, is encouraged byconstitutional clause 136 B, al-Radhi said. It gives Cabinet ministers thepower to block his investigations.

So far, he said, ministers have blocked probes into the theft or misspendingof an estimated additional $55 million in public funds.

Two years ago he asked the Constitutional Court to strike the clause, but the panel hasnever issued a ruling.

On Wednesday, he took the matter to Parliament Speaker Mahmoudal-Mashhadani, who promised to back his efforts before the court, al-Radhisaid. Al-Mashhadani's office confirmed that they met and said the parliamentspeaker promised to support the anti-corruption move.

Senior government officials and Cabinet ministers are accused of a variety ofschemes.

Al-Radhi said that after starting an investigation of 180 Oil Ministryemployees in the southern province of Basra, he and anothercolleague received death threats.

"I and Haidar Ashour, our representative in southern Iraq, havereceived threats by telephone accusing us of being former regime elements(supporters of the late Saddam Hussein)," said al-Radhi. He was a judgeduring the former leader's rule, a job that required al-Radhi to join Saddam'sBaath party.

"'If you don't stop the investigation, you will be killed,'"al-Radhi quoted the caller as saying. The threat was issued in the name of thelittle-known Southern Region Movement.

Commission records show arrest warrants have been issued for about 90 formerIraqi officials, including 15 ministers, on charges of corruption. Most havefled the country.

In October, parliament removed immunity from lawmaker Mishan al-Jabouri,opening the door for prosecutors to charge him with siphoning off some $7million a month intended to pay for food for three units of the pipelineprotection force. Al-Jabouri's whereabouts are unknown; he has not beenarrested.

Former Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan, who served under then-Prime MinisterAyad Allawi in 2004 and early 2005, is facing corruption allegations involving$1 billion in missing funds. Shaalan has denied wrongdoing.

The Iraq war has proven atemptation for many in the United States as well.

A quarterly audit released Jan. 31 by Stuart Bowen Jr., the specialinspector general for Iraqreconstruction, found the $300 billion U.S. war and reconstruction effortcontinues to be plagued with waste and corruption.

According to Bowen's report, the State Department paid $43.8 million tocontractor DynCorp International for a residential camp for police trainingpersonnel outside of Baghdad's Adnan Palacegrounds. The camp has been empty for months. About $4.2 million of the moneywas improperly spent on 20 VIP trailers and an Olympic-size pool, all orderedby the Iraqi Ministry of Interior but never authorized by the U.S.

U.S.officials spent an additional $36.4 million for weapons such as armoredvehicles, body armor and communications equipment that cannot be accounted for.DynCorp also may have prematurely billed $18 million in other potentiallyunjustified costs, the report said.

Early in the U.S.occupation of Iraq,hundreds of millions of dollars were wasted on unnecessary and overpricedequipment for the Iraqi army. Much of that waste came during Allawi's tenure astransitional prime minister.

Iraqi investigators probed several weapons and equipment deals engineered byone-time procurement officer Ziad Cattan and other defense officials. Cattan isbelieved to be in hiding.

One case involves Polish weapons maker Bumar, which signed a $236 millioncontract in December 2004 to equip the Iraqi army with helicopters, ambulances,pistols, machine guns and water tanks. Added to other deals, Bumar's contractswith the Iraqi army totaled nearly $300 million.

Iraqi officials said that when Iraqi experts traveled to Europeto check on their purchase of the transport choppers, they discovered theaircraft, which cost tens of millions of dollars, were 28 years old andoutdated. They refused to take them and returned home empty-handed.

At the time, a spokeswoman for Bumar denied the company ever provided Iraq withpoor-quality helicopters and said that although they were several years old andused, this was at the request of the Iraqi Defense Ministry.

Another case involving Cattan was a deal to purchase 7.62 mm bullets formachine guns and rifles. Iraqi officials said the bullets should have costbetween 4 and 6 cents apiece but the ministry was eventually charged 16 centsper bullet.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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