Iraq sen­tences ex-min­is­ter on graft charges

The Gulf Today - - MIDDLE EAST -

BAGH­DAD: Iraq’s ju­di­ciary on Thurs­day sen­tenced a for­mer trade min­is­ter and two other high-rank­ing ofi­cials in ab­sen­tia to seven years in prison each on charges of cor­rup­tion.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors at the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion said the three ofi­cials were found guilty of graft charges linked to rice im­ports, em­bez­zling up to $14.3 mil­lion of pub­lic funds.

Its state­ment cited a de­ci­sion is­sued by Bagh­dad’ s spe­cial court for crimes against In­tegrity, say­ing the court “reached the su­fi­cient thresh­old of proof, and sen­tenced each ofi­cial to seven years in prison.”

It also granted banks the author­ity to freeze their as­sets.

It did not name those sen­tenced, but a source at the Com­mis­sion told AFP they in­cluded for­mer min­is­ter Malas Ab­dulka­rim Al-kas­nazani two se­nior trade min­istry ofi­cials.

Kas­nazani briely served as trade min­is­ter in the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment of Iraqi premier Haider al-abadi, but was sacked in De­cem­ber 2015 for fail­ing to show up to work.

At the time, he was widely be­lieved to have led to Amman af­ter be­ing slapped with an ar­rest war­rant on charges of cor­rup­tion. In the 1990s, Kas­nazani and two of his broth­ers were briely ar­rested for forg­ing the sig­na­ture of ex-pres­i­dent Sad­dam Hus­sein.

Kas­nazani is the sec­ond trade min­is­ter to be slapped with a jail term for cor­rup­tion in the past year alone.

Ab­del Falah Al-su­dani, who served in the post fol­low­ing the 2003 Us-led in­va­sion of Iraq, had also been sen­tenced in ab­sen­tia for graft over food im­ports.

He was ex­tra­dited from Le­banon last year by In­ter­pol, then handed over to Bagh­dad and sub­se­quently sen­tenced to 21 years in prison. Iraq is the 12th most cor­rupt coun­try in the world, ac­cord­ing to Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional

The em­bez­zle­ment of pub­lic goods — from land to gov­ern­ment funds — is a deeply rooted prob­lem in a coun­try with such a large pub­lic sec­tor.

Cor­rup­tion, shell com­pa­nies and “phantom” pub­lic em­ploy­ees who re­ceive salaries but do not work have cost the coun­try the equiv­a­lent of $228 bil­lion dol­lars since 2003, ac­cord­ing to Iraq’s par­lia­ment. That ig­ure is more than Iraq’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct and nearly three times the an­nual budget.

On the other hand, Iraq’s top cleric on Thurs­day said he had yet to see progress made un­der new Prime Min­is­ter Adel Ab­dul Mahdi, who still does not have a full cab­i­net due to po­lit­i­cal wran­gling six months af­ter an elec­tion.

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