The owners of a ferry that capsized in Mosul killing 100 people have been arrested along with engineers who had allegedly certified the vessel, Iraq’s judiciary said Sunday.
“The committee set up to investigate the sinking of the ferry announced the arrest of the boat’s owners” along with three engineers who “had certified that it complied with regulations,” the Supreme Judicial Council said in a statement.
The boat was packed with families from the northern city, a former bastion of ISIS, crossing the River Tigris to celebrate the Kurds’ Nowruz New Year holiday.
Most of the victims of the accident on March 21, Iraqi Mother’s Day, were women and children. The strong current washed some bodies miles downstream, and dozens of people are still missing.
The Mosul ferry disaster has brought renewed attention to the scourge of corruption in Iraq.
Graft is endemic across Iraq, not only in the city ISIS controlled for three years before their expulsion in July 2017.
The country ranks among the world’s worst offenders in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index.
Since 2004, a year after the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, a total of $218 billion has vanished into the pockets of shady politicians and businessmen, according to Parliament. That is more than Iraq’s GDP.
Few officials have been brought to account, and amnesties have allowed many to evade justice, only partially repaying the stolen funds.
For the past week, the cry of “corruption is killing us” has been ringing across Mosul.
A parliamentary report compiled by 43 deputies has warned that corruption risks re-igniting sectarian tensions long exploited by militants.
It could also impede the rebuilding of Mosul, much of which was reduced to rubble during the year-long battle to evict ISIS.
The report, seen by AFP, shows economic groups linked to units from the Iran Militia in Iraq and Syria (IMIS) taking over projects and lands.
Figures close to IMIS are also accused of war profiteering.
Instead of reconstruction, such entrepreneurs have made millions of dollars from the resale of metallic structures and building materials from damaged apartment blocks, a local official says in the report.
Such sales were being conducted by armed groups and their frontmen through letters of authorization from the government.
At the same time, according to the report, Nawfel Al-Akoub, the governor who has been fired and gone on the run, authorized the construction of two roads in violation of municipal regulations, for the benefit of oil smugglers.
The ferry’s capsize in the swollen River Tigris, after operators ignored warnings of dangerous weather, proved a tipping point.