Corruption


Covering Corruption “Exposes Journalists to Arrest”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the arrests to which two investigative reporters have been subjected in different parts of Iraq in the past few days in connection with their coverage of corruption, and calls for an end to the harassment of these journalists.

The latest victim was Mostafa Hamed, a reporter based in Fallujah, in the western province of Al Anbar, where he works for the local TV channel Sharqeya. He was arrested at his home at 2 a.m. on 9 June by policemen who did not tell him what he was charged with, and was finally released today without being charged.

According to the information gathered by the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), RSF’s partner NGO in Iraq, Hamed had been investigating the involvement of Fallujah city hall leaders in a real estate scandal. Sharqeya is owned by Saad al Bazzaz, a local businessman and political rival of Al Anbar’s governor, who tried to get the TV channel closed last December.

The other recent victim is Hossam al Kaabi (pictured), a reporter based in Najaf, 180 km south of Baghdad, who has repeatedly been harassed in connection with his coverage of an alleged corruption case involving the Najaf provincial airport’s former governing board.

What with money, women and threats, every kind of method has been used in an attempt to silence his reporting on the case, he said. The corruption case is however by no means a secret. He has also been the target of dozens of legal actions. The latest method was an arrest warrant, which resulted in his having to pay the large sum of 15 million dinars (10,745 euros) in bail to obtain his release on 6 June.

The warrant was the result of a complaint filed by Najaf airport’s former administration four days after Kaabi’s main media outlet, the NRT network’s Arabic-language channel, was forced to close for financial reasons. Defended by a consortium of lawyers, Kaabi told RSF he is concerned about the outcome because of the lack of judicial independence in Iraq.

“These two arrest warrants highlight the different kinds of difficulties for journalists in Iraq, which not only include being unjustly prosecuted but also the risk of seeing your work used for the purposes of the political rivalry,” said Sophie Anmuth, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The absurd proceedings against Hossam al Kaabi must be dropped and the authorities must do their duty to protect journalists who are the target of threats.”

As Kaabi points out on Facebook, in theory Iraqi law protects the right of journalists to seek information and sources. But in practice, as JFO has often reported, local officials act with impunity when they use judicial pressure and sometimes death threats to pressure journalists who investigate corruption.

Iraq is ranked 160th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

(Source: RSF)

New Charges in Unaoil Investigation re $733m Contract

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has brought further charges against two individuals facing trial in relation to the Unaoil investigation.

Basil Al Jarah and Ziad Akle have both been charged with conspiracy to give corrupt payments to secure the award of a contract worth US$733 million to Leighton Contractors Singapore PTE Ltd for a project to build two oil pipelines in southern Iraq.

  • Basil Al Jarah was charged on 15 May 2018 with two offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments, contrary to section (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.
  • Ziad Akle was charged on 16 May 2018 with one offence of conspiracy to give corrupt payments, contrary to section (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

Basil Al Jarah and Ziad Akle will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 23 May 2018.

The SFO would like to thank the Australian Federal Police for the assistance it provided in connection with our investigation.

The investigation is ongoing.

(Source: SFO)

Iraq Duty Free Responds to Allegations

Iraq Duty Free has responded to allegations regarding the renewal of its contract to run the duty free concessions at Baghdad and Basra airports in Iraq.

According to the statement from its CEO, Ahmed Kamal, the owner of company has not been convicted of “any crime of punishment that deprives the freedom in Iraq.”

His response is carried in full below:

Iraq Duty Free strongly refutes all such allegations regarding the contract renewal which have been aired on Al Ahad channel. The contract between Iraq Duty Free and Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority has passed through a number of legal and regulatory authorities before concluding it. It was approved by Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority and then further endorsed by Ministery of Transportation. So all allegations by Al Ahad channel regarding the contract renewal are baseless and these allegations are aimed to tarnish our reputation and business goodwill. What was published about us in Al Ahad Channel is flagrantly untrue, and we have requested the channel to show evidence and documents of what it has stated; or else the right of reply is assured for us by law.

As for what your website has reported about the Al Ahad Channel and what was published about our company, we would like to indicate to you and all observers that businesses in Iraq have been encountering many challenges and every day false accusations are being published here and there and the last of which is what was aired about us in Al Ahad Channel which is baseless and defamatory act targeted on a business which has employed hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqis and is one of the major employers in Iraq. We not only bring a pleasant shopping experience to Iraq but also we bring world best brands for Iraqi travelers. As a responsible corporate citizen, Iraq Duty Free is regularly contributing its resources for the welfare of Iraqi people.

We inform you that our company has a contract of leasing Iraqi duty free shops, which was entered into with relevant parties under the supervision of the Ministry of Transportation, and our company has not lagged behind in implementing the provisions prescribed in the contract, as it is an investment contract and cost us millions of dollars in order to develop and modernize the free duty shops, showrooms and some works related to Baghdad International Airport in terms of modernization, reconstruction and development, and there is no legal impediment to prevent renewing the contract even before its expiry; rather both contracted parties are entitled by law to do that with mutual consent.

Regarding what is said on website about the owner of company, we would like to tell you that the owner of company is an Iraqi National and not convicted of any crime of punishment that deprives the freedom in Iraq; furthermore, there is no text or law that prevents him from contracting inside Iraq, requesting your esteemed website kindly to investigate the facts before publication, as the bad information could commercially affect the company’s reputation, especially that our company is of the leading companies in Iraq.

We would request Iraq Business News to not pick the defamatory news spread by Al Ahad channel. If Al Ahad Channel has any evidence or legal documents that confirm what is published about us, we request them to announce it before slandering it on media.

(Picture: Duty free, from asiandelight/Shutterstock)

Were Duty Free Contracts Illegally Granted?

Iraq Business News has learned of claims that Iraq’s anti-corruption bodies are investigating the contract to operate the duty-free shops at Baghdad and Basra airports.

Early last year we reported that the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) and the Ministry of Transport had extended Iraq Duty Free‘s exclusive contract at the airports by ten years to 4th March 2029; the company has been running the stores since 2004.

According to a report from Al-Ahad TV, the total duration of the contract, and fact that it was extended two years before it was due to expire, are in breach of Iraqi law.

It goes on to state that Iraq Duty Free’s parent company, Financial Links, is owned by UK-citizen Ahmed Sarchil Kazzaz, who has a conviction for fraud in the United States in relation to the payment of bribes to help win contracts in Iraq.

IBN reported that Kazzaz and his business, Leadstay, were charged in 2012; he subsequently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 months in prison and a substantial fine. This conviction would normally preclude contracting with any Iraqi government entity.

Iraq Duty Free has not yet responded to IBN’s request to comment.

(Picture: Duty free, from asiandelight/Shutterstock)

Video: Corruption Watchdog says $320bn Stolen

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The parliamentary transparency commission in Iraq says $320 billion has gone missing in the past 15 years, because of government c.

It’s one of many big issues weighing on the minds of Iraqis as they prepare to vote for a new parliament on Saturday.

Al Jazeera‘s Imran Khan reports from Baghdad, Iraq.

Iraq at a Crossroads – Restoring Security and Economic Growth

By Dr. Layth Mahdi.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq at a Crossroads – Will the New Government Succeed in Restoring Security and Economic Growth

Iraq is experiencing a severe socio-economic crisis due to the country’s inability to develop and implement programs to drive economic growth. Iraq is still facing political instability, sever corruption and lack of vision from its leadership to resolve the country’s problems.

With the recent liberation of major cities from the insurgency, Iraq now stands at a critical junction in its history. Iraq has said it needs $88 to $100 billion, but it was promised only $30 billion during the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq.

The real success lies in Iraq presenting its cause to the International Community and gaining its confidence. Iraq has a chance to capitalize on the security situation and rebuild the economy and trust from its people.

In order to continue to build trust with Iraq’s allies and investors the new strong Government needs to focus on the following points:

  • Reestablishing the national army and police as the sole enforcer of the law;
  • Anti corruption measures to ensure the benefit of its population;
  • Review Government policies and procedures to minimize bureaucracy and promote foreign investment.

With the poverty rate reaching over 40 percent and unemployment continues to rise, Iraq is in dire need of large-scale projects for sustainable development to be reached. There needs to be a focus on the rebuilding the agricultural and manufacturing sector to stop the increase in poverty and unemployment.

There also needs to be an investment in education, healthcare and basic services, support for small and medium businesses, and empowerment of youth whom suffer the highest unemployment.

Recently there has also been a significant increase of drug use where with drug related arrests more than doubling across the country. Prior to 2003 Iraq was considered drug-free however with the further deterioration of the agricultural sector and the increase in poverty and unemployment, some farmers may grow narcotic plants commercially as cash crops due to the increased in demand locally.

Any initiatives in place to curb drug use would fail if the problems of poverty and unemployment were not addressed properly.

There are new parliamentary elections on the horizon giving Iraq a chance to finally restore itself back to its glory. This will only be successful with the help of International Organizations, NGO’s and most importantly strong Government officials with the right vision.

Iraq Falls in Transparency Ranking

By John Lee.

Transparency International has said that Iraq’s ranking has fallen three places its global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

From a total of 180 countries, Iraq came in at number 169; last year’s position was 166 out of 176 countries.

This result puts it behind countries such as Turkmenistan, Angola and Eritrea, and just ahead of North Korea, Guinea-Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea.

New Zealand beat Denmark to first place.

Libya was ranked in 171st place, with Iran in 130th.

The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople.

More here.

CEO Jailed for Fraud

The owner and chief executive officer of an armored vehicle company was sentenced today to 70 months in prison for his role in orchestrating a scheme to defraud the United States by providing the U.S. Department of Defense with armored gun trucks that did not meet ballistic and blast protection requirements set out in the company’s contracts with the United States.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rick A. Mountcastle of the Western District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Lee of the FBI’s Richmond, Virginia, Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Craig Jr. of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office made the announcement.

William Whyte, 72, of King City, Ontario, the owner and CEO of Armet Armored Vehicles of Danville, Virginia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jackson L. Kiser of the Western District of Virginia, who also ordered Whyte to serve three years of supervised release following his prison sentence and to pay restitution in the amount of $2,019,454.36.

On Oct. 9, 2017, after a two-week trial, Whyte was found guilty of three counts of major fraud against the United States, three counts of wire fraud and three counts of criminal false claims.  Whyte was charged by an indictment in July 2012.

Evidence at trial demonstrated that Whyte executed a scheme to defraud the United States by providing armored gun trucks that were deliberately under-armored.  Armet contracted to provide armored gun trucks for use by the United States and its allies as part of the efforts to rebuild Iraq in 2005.

Despite providing armored gun trucks that did not meet contractual specifications, Whyte and his employees represented that the armored gun trucks were adequately armored in accordance with the contract, the evidence showed.  Armet was paid over $2 million over the course of the scheme, the evidence showed.

The case was investigated by the FBI and DCIS.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Caitlin Cottingham of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Carlton of the Western District of Virginia.

(Source: US Dept of Justice)

Abadi says Laws will Protect Foreign Investors

By John Lee.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has promised to crack down on corruption, and says laws will protect nervous foreign investors.

He told CNBC:

We are laying down all the legal framework … I think the worry is corruption, number one, which is hiding behind red tape and bureaucracy. We have established a higher committee which is headed by the prime minister and it has a follow up team to make sure to remove blocks as they are there because of the bureaucracy.

“I think this will be a huge bonus for companies; sometimes they are pressed to pay bribes or something like that. We want to keep away from this, we want every dollar which goes into investment or donation to serve the people, not to go to the pockets of corrupt people.

Appearing confident despite the challenges ahead, he added:

“I think now that the process of engaging investors in Iraq, I am sure in the next few months will be the foundation of this. We’ve already appointed a committee. Next month is going to be a meeting with major investors to follow up … And I hope that after the election they’ll immediately start.”

See the full CNBC interview here.

(Source: CNBC)

Ex-Minister sentenced to 21 years for “Corruption”

An Iraqi court on February 12 sentenced former trade minister Abdul Falah al-Sudani to 21 years in prison on corruption charges.

Sudani was involved in a corruption scandal connected to the country’s massive food rations programme.

He was given three sentences, two for “negligence” with a 14-year jail term and a third for “misconduct” with a seven-year term, according to Iraqi Shafaq News.

Sudani, who belongs to the ruling Dawa Party, served as minister of trade from 2006 to 2009.

He was sacked and slapped with criminal charges in 2009. Released on bail, Sudani was then arrested as he tried to flee the country, but he managed to flee again.

The former trade minister was extradited from Lebanon and taken into Iraqi custody on 25 January.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has earlier vowed to fight corruption, saying it is the second war the country has to fight following its victory over IS.

(Source: GardaWorld)