Iraqi with ties to Rezko es­capes Bagh­dad jail

Chicago Sun-Times - - News - BY CHRIS FUSCO Staff Re­porter

For­mer Iraqi elec­tric­ity min­is­ter Ai­ham Al­sam­marae, who has a home in west sub­ur­ban Oak Brook, has es­caped from a Bagh­dad po­lice sta­tion, ac­cord­ing to an e-mail he sent to the Chicago Sun-Times and oth­ers Tues­day.

“Hi, I am OK and out of their reach,” Al­sam­marae wrote in the e-mail, which came in re­sponse to an e-mail the news­pa­per sent him sev­eral days ago.

Al­sam­marae, 55, went on to blast Iraq’s Pub­lic In­tegrity Com­mis­sion for keep­ing him in­car­cer­ated on cor­rup­tion charges he main­tains are false. He did not iden­tify where he was stay­ing.

“I said it be­fore and I say it again: There is noth­ing (no case pend­ing in the court [that] re­quired me to stay one day in the jail. . . . They make me wait for an­other 8 days . . . plan­ning for more lies un­til they get the chance to kill me!!!” wrote Al­sam­marae, a dual U.S.-Iraqi cit­i­zen who left his Down­ers Grove en­gi­neer­ing firm in 2003 to join Iraq’s tran­si­tional gov­ern­ment.

“So, this is why I de­cide to hit the road and safe [sic] my life for the sake of my fam­ily and Iraq.”

Al­sam­marae did not an­swer the Sun-Times’ ques­tions about an Iraqi power-plant con­tract that is of in­ter­est to U.S. au­thor­i­ties in Chicago.

That deal, which no longer is in ef­fect, in­cluded re­cently in­dicted Wil­mette busi­ness­man An­toin “Tony” Rezko, a for­mer top fund-raiser for Gov. Blago­je­vich. It hap­pened un­der Al­sam­marae’s watch as Iraq’s elec­tric­ity chief.

Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties here want to learn more about the deal be­cause Rezko and Al­sam­marae know each other, and each has been ac­cused of cor­rup­tion, a source familiar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion told the Sun-Times ear­lier this month. Al­sam­marae and Rezko at­tended the Illi­nois In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy to­gether in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

$2 bil­lion miss­ing

A U.S. Em­bassy spokesman de­clined to go into de­tail about Al­sam­marae’s es­cape, telling the As­so­ci­ated Press “there are con­flict­ing re­ports sur­round­ing his dis­ap­pear­ance.”

Al­sam­marae re­mained at large Tues­day night, ac­cord­ing to the AP. Private guards in SUVs helped Al­sam­marae walk out of a po­lice sta­tion just out­side the heav­ily for­ti­fied Green Zone on Sun­day, the wire ser­vice re­ported.

Ali al- Shabout, a spokesman for the Iraqi Pub­lic In­tegrity Com­mis­sion, said of­fi­cers at the Kara­dat Mariam po­lice sta­tion al­lowed uni­formed men who ap­peared to be se­cu­rity guards into the build­ing. The of­fi­cers re­al­ized later that Al­sam­marae had left with the agents.

‘‘They didn’t dis­cover that un­til they went into his room later and found he was miss­ing,’’ al- Shabout said.

Al­sam­marae was sched­uled to ap­pear in court Mon­day to face trial on 12 cor­rup­tion counts. The charges stem from an es­ti­mated $2 bil­lion in miss­ing funds for con­tracts to re­build Iraq’s elec­tri­cal in­fra­struc­ture, the AP re­ported.

An ear­lier cor­rup­tion con­vic­tion against Al­sam­marae re­cently had been over­turned.

Con­tribut­ing: Natasha Korecki, Dave McKin­ney

cfusco@suntimes.com

—KHALID MO­HAMMED/AP

Ai­ham Al­sam­marae, who owns a home in Oak Brook, has es­caped from a Bagh­dad po­lice sta­tion, ac­cord­ing to an e-mail ex­change with the Sun-Times.

An­toin ‘‘Tony’’ Rezko

Util­i­ty­deal

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