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Iraq: $240bn smuggled out the country

An employee of a currency exchange counter, counts local currency bank notes in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah in the Dhi Qar province, on December 20, 2020. - A year of economic agony for pandemic-hit and oil-reliant Iraq is drawing to a close, but a draft 2021 budget involving a hefty currency devaluation could bring more pain for citizens. Iraq, which relies on oil sales to finance 90 percent of its budget, projects that its economy has shrunk by 11 percent this year, while poverty doubles to 40 percent of the country's 40 million residents. (Photo by Asaad NIAZI / AFP) (Photo by ASAAD NIAZI/AFP via Getty Images)
An employee of a currency exchange counter, counts local currency bank notes in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah in the Dhi Qar province, on December 20, 2020 [ASAAD NIAZI/AFP via Getty Images]

An Iraqi parliamentary inquest has today revealed that an estimated $239.7 billion (some 350 trillion dinars) has left the country illegally since 2003.

According to the Iraqi News Agency, one member of the Parliamentary Integrity Committee, Taha Al-Difai stated: "The amount was smuggled in the form of fake receipts and a lot of commissions were paid to officials."

"Around $685 billion (1,000 trillion dinars) have been disbursed since 2003," he said, adding that this amount was "wasted in contracting and rampant corruption".

READ: Iraq's President Salih acknowledges government failure, spread of corruption

According to Transparency International's 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index Iraq is ranked 162 out of 198 countries with corruption coupled with high youth unemployment being a frequent cause of anti-government protests.

Late last month the country's Central Bank and 13 private banks were under investigation by Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council over allegations of money laundering and terrorist financing. Some of the Central Bank's officials were described as seeking to exploit the foreign exchange auction.

In a leaked draft of Iraq's state budget last month, the Central Bank also devalued the national currency against the US dollar by almost 20 per cent leading to a backlash from the public over concerns of the economic impact of the move.

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