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10 Iraqi ex-ministers convicted for multi-billion-dollar embezzlement


SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — Ten former Iraqi ministers have been found guilty of fraud and corruption while in office on a number of different charges brought against them by the parliament’s Commission of Integrity.

The ministers have been high-ranking members of former Iraqi Cabinets since 2003.

Lawmaker Adil Nuri, who is the spokesperson of the committee, told Rudaw a court in Baghdad has also issued arrest warrants for some of the convicted ministers.

Nuri said Kurdish Minister Shex Muhammad Shex Abdulkareem Kasnazani, who served as the minister of trade in past Cabinets, was among those convicted.

The committee said at least half of Iraq’s revenue since 2003, estimated at $1 trillion, remains unaccounted for since the ministries have not submitted final reports concerning their expenditures.

“We have ministers who are accused of embezzling $900 million, some of $500 million and others are accused of $100 million,” Nuri said. “Some fake ministry contracts are worth $1.5 billion.”

Iraq has continually been ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the region, with a high level of unaccountability in fraud and bribery cases concerning top officials.

The war-torn country is one of the most corrupt nations in the Arab world, according to a 2014 report from Transparency International.

Iraq was ranked 170th out of 175 countries in the group’s perception of corruption list.

“The country does not have an equivalent in the Middle East when it comes to corruption,” Nuri said of Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi dismissed 123 deputy ministers and general managers in September 2014 as part of a reform plan to reduce corruption in government bodies.

Falling oil prices and a costly war with ISIS across the country has shrunk Iraq’s national budget to an estimated $105 billion in 2015 with a roughly $20 billion overall deficit.

Abadi leads a consensus government that was formed in the aftermath of the ISIS takeover of Nineveh province by ISIS in June 2014.

Sectarian divisions between the majority Shiites and minority Sunnis have made it nearly impossible for the courts to indict officials who are often backed by powerful tribal segments of Iraq’s fragmented society.

Former Iraqi Vice President Tariq Hashimi, a Sunni leader, fled the country in 2012 after an arrest warrant involving corruption reportedly sponsored by former Shiite Premier Nouri al-Maliki.

“We have been threatened several times over each case that we have worked on so far,” Nuri said, adding he hoped the committee’s final report will bring many officials to court.

Nuri said the cases involve almost all government ministries, including those of defense, interior, transportation, commerce, oil, migration, municipalities and many more.

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