Hunting corrupt officials has raised concerns of Iraq’s political elite amid a push to eliminate corruption and fraud in the country. This move can affect high-ranking officials whose fear has exacerbated after leaks unveiling that US investigators are tracking down corrupt Iraqi officials.
While Baghdad is steeped in a series of high-profile investigations into alleged corruption by officials, the Iraqi people is following up the turning point in dealing with this thorny issue. As this move comes after the country’s political elite has buried sensitive documents that can criminalize them for over 14 years.
Hunting corrupt officials can put an end to Iran’s agents in Iraq, who want to undermine the country by spreading chronic corruption and terrorism in the country, observers told The Baghdad Post.
Iraq ranks 166st out of 176 nations in Transparency International’s Corruption Index.
Corruption in Iraq is tied to chronically weak accountability and murky governance.
Estimates of how much goes missing vary from $100 billion lost since 2003 to $20 billion in 2013. One Iraqi government official put total money lost to corruption as high as $300 billion.
Push to eliminate corruption
However, Late in August, it was reported Late in August that Iraq’s anti-corruption court issued 26 jail sentences to high-profile Iraqi politicians.
The sentences ranged from six months to 15 years.
Among the prominent names the former defense minister Hazim al-Shalan was sentenced to 13 years in jail as well as Mohsin Shlash, the former minister of electricity for seven years.
Abdel Amir Baker Khathim, the general manager of the department of finance, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The former minister of agriculture, Sawsan al-Sharifi was also convicted of graft charges and sentenced to five years in prison, while former transport director general Faisal Naji Malo was jailed for seven years.
Other sentences include former ministers of oil, trade, youth and sport.
Last month, a final judgment has been issued convicting former finance minister Hushyar Zebari and ordering confiscation of his movable and immovable property and his arrest over corruption charges
The Criminal Court of Integrity sentenced in July Ahmed Abdullah al-Jabouri, Salahuddin's governor, to two-year imprisonment in two cases that had been filed against him,
A few weeks ago, Basra’s governor Majid al-Nasrawi stepped down and left for Iran after Iraq’s anti-corruption body began investigating graft allegations against him.
In July the head of the provincial council, Sabah al-Bazoni, was arrested and sacked after the watchdog accused him of taking bribes and misuse of power.
Graft has been a major concern in Iraq. Basra is also seen as the ultimate prize given its oil wealth and investment potential.
On Friday, former trade minister Abdul Falah al-Sudani was arrested in Lebanon, who fled the country in 2010 after being charged with stealing billions of dollars of subsidized food rations.
This confirms leaks of US investigators tracking down corrupt Iraqi officials as they have paid visits to Beirut, London and Dubai in an attempt to hunt officials and recover the stolen assets.
A corruption icon
According to observers, former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is a corruption icon. During his tenure graft, fraud and bribes have become rampant in Iraq.
In 2015, it was reported that Maliki had reportedly siphoned off $500bn during his tenure between 2006 and 2014.
The Iraqi Commission of Integrity (CoI) has said nearly half of the government's revenues during the eight-year period had been "stolen".
This is the "the greatest political corruption scandal in history", CoI's spokesperson Adil Nouri told the Iraqi parliament at the time that as much as half a trillion dollar funds from the government's coffers have systematically disappeared during al-Maliki's tenure.
Nouri said the war-torn country's oil income alone amounted to $800bn between 2006-2014.
He added the Maliki administration also received aid amounting to $250bn from several countries including the US in these years.
Zayton al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi Forces Coalition MP, said the anti-corruption issue had been opened and will not be closed until all corrupt officials are held accountable.
She noted in a press statement that many ministers had been questioned in the parliament, adding that the judicial system has issued rulings on many corruption cases in record time.
Those who fled the country cannot escape forever, she concluded.