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Iraq seeks Interpol alerts for former officials over $2.5bln graft

August 6, 2023 at 3:46 pm

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi holds a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq [Iraqi PM Press Office – Anadolu Agency]

Iraq plans to ask Interpol to issue international alerts seeking the arrest of former senior officials including an ex-finance minister and an ex-intelligence chief over the alleged theft of more than $2.5 billion from the country’s Tax Commission, Reuters reports.

The scandal centres on suspected illegitimate cash withdrawals from the Commission between 2021 and 2022 totalling around $2.5 billion, according to Iraqi officials – a staggering amount even in a country that regularly ranks among the world’s most corrupt.

Iraq’s top anti-corruption official, Integrity Commission chief Judge Haider Hanoun, announced the move to seek so-called Interpol Red Notices on Sunday.

Hanoun said the judiciary would also ask for notices to be issued for the private secretary and a political adviser to former prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Kadhimi and former finance minister Ali Allawi have both denied involvement in the alleged corruption, which came to light late last year after a new government came to power.

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Allawi resigned from the government in August 2022 citing political interference in government work and graft. He has since said that he took steps to prevent theft from occurring at the Tax Commission but that his decisions were ignored by other officials.

Current Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has said one of his priorities is fighting the rampant corruption that pervades the Iraqi state and has led to the pilfering of untold billions of the country’s oil wealth dollars over the years.

Hanoun, appointed by Sudani, said Iraq was working to extradite people involved in the theft from a number of states including the UAE, Turkiye, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and also called on the US and UK “to hand over fugitive suspects,” though he did not name them.

Hanoun said those allegedly involved in the corruption for whom he was demanding Red Notices had taken a share of no less than 100 billion Iraqi dinars ($77 million).

More than 48 people were suspected of involvement overall, he added.

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