Iraq ex-trade minister cleared of graft charges

The head of the integrity committee in the outgoing parliament, Sabah al-Saedi, said the court acquittal would be appealed by the independent Integrity Commission.

Iraq ex-trade minister cleared of graft charges

An Iraqi court on Wednesday acquitted the country's former trade minister of corruption charges, almost 11 months after he lost his job in a scandal over food imports that embarrassed the government.

The criminal appeals court in Baghdad's Rusafa district dismissed the charges against the former minister, Abdul Falah al-Sudany, for lack of evidence, said chief judge Muhsin Jaafar.

"It took two hearings in court to acquit him (Sudany) of the charges made against him," said Musadaq al-Sudany, the minister's brother.

Allegations of kickbacks in the Trade Ministry, which oversees Iraq's vast public food ration programme and imports huge amounts of wheat, sugar, rice and other foodstuffs, generated a public outcry last year.

Iraq's corruption watchdog accused officials in the ministry, including two of the minister's brothers and a nephew, of taking bribes for contracts.

The government ordered a plane carrying Sudany to Jordan to turn back and arrested him in a highly publicised drama.

Sudany was one of nine officials, including the head of the state Grain Board, charged with buying sugar and other foods that were found to be unfit for consumption. A court acquitted the head of the grain board last fall but three other officials in the ministry were jailed in December.

Corruption has become a major problem for Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. In 2008, only Somalia and Myanmar were seen as more corrupt, according to Transparency International.

The head of the integrity committee in the outgoing parliament, Sabah al-Saedi, said the court acquittal would be appealed by the independent Integrity Commission.

Reuters

Last Mod: 28 Nisan 2010, 16:31
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