United states


Schlumberger to Drill 40 Wells at Majnoon

By John Lee.

US-based Schlumberger has won a deal with Iraq’s Basra Oil Company (BOC) to drill 40 new wells at Majnoon oilfield.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry of Oil also announced that the BOC had entered into a 19-month contract with the Iraqi Oil Exploration Company to carry out 2D and 3D seismic surveys at the field.

(Source: Ministry of Oil)

Major US Trade Mission to Iraq

By John Lee.

More than 100 top executives from more than 50 US companies visitied Iraq last week as part of a US-Iraq trade mission.

Steve Lutes, vice president of Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said:

“We want to expand and diversify the US involvement in commercial activity [in Iraq] … We look forward to building on this momentum and exploring next steps!”

U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman described the event as, “the largest US Chamber of Commerce business delegation anywhere in the world this year!

Now we work to negotiate real contracts and investments,” he added.

(Sources: Govt of Iraq, US Chamber of Commerce)

US “struggles” to convince Iraq to cut ties with Iran

By John Lee.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry spent the last two days trying to convince the Iraqi government that it’s in its best interest to cut energy ties with Iran.

But according to a report from Washington Examiner, his efforts have had limited success.

Perry tweeted:

“In bilateral meetings with Iraqi President @BarhamSalih, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi, and Speaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi I reaffirmed that the U.S. stands ready to assist the Iraqi people in transitioning from Iranian energy dependence to using their full domestic energy potential.”

Iran is Iraq’s neighbor and an important supplier of the natural gas that fuels the nation’s electric grid, which is crucial to Iraq’s economy and oil industry.

More here.

(Source: Washington Examiner)

Iraq buys Grain from US, considers Russia

By John Lee.

Iraqi trade minister Mohammed Hashim has reportedly signed a deal on Thursday to import wheat and rice from the United States.

According to Reuters, the agreement covers the first half of 2019.

Meanwhile, Kurdistan 24 reports that a Russian delegation visited Baghdad this week to discuss exporting wheat to Iraq.

(Sources: Reuters, Kurdistan 24)

Iran proceeds with Rail Link to Syria via Iraq

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

As the United States enacts sanctions on Iran, Iran is increasing its influence in Iraq with plans for a railway that could work around US restrictions.

The state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI) revealed details Nov. 12 about its project to build a railway connecting Iran’s Shalamcheh border crossing to the port of Basra in southeast Iraq.

Maziar Yazdani, RAI’s deputy head of infrastructure and technical affairs, said the Shalamcheh-Basra leg of the project will require only 20 miles of new track at a cost of about $52,000. With the new addition, the rail system will span Iraq to reach Syria’s Mediterranean port city of Latakia.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture Credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Prison for Bribery in Iraq War Contracts

A former business partner of a U.S. military contractor was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for his role in a years-long scheme to bribe U.S. Army contracting officials stationed at a U.S. military base in Kuwait during the Iraq War.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno of the FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division, Director Frank Robey of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit and Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Craig Jr. of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office made the announcement.

Finbar Charles, 62, a citizen of Saint Lucia most recently residing in Baguio City, Philippines, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre of the Northern District of Alabama.  Chief Judge Bowdre also ordered Charles to forfeit $228,558 in illicit gains.  Charles pleaded guilty in July 2018 to one count of bribery of a federal official.

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, Charles was a business partner of a former U.S. military contractor, Terry Hall.  As Hall’s business partner, Charles admitted that he facilitated Hall and others in providing millions of dollars in bribes in approximately 2005 to 2007 to various U.S. Army officials in exchange for preferential treatment for Hall’s companies in connection with Department of Defense (DOD) contracts to deliver bottled water and construct security fencing to support U.S. troops stationed in Kuwait and Iraq.

As part of his role in this criminal conspiracy, Charles admitted that he managed bank accounts in Kuwait and the Philippines that he used to receive Department of Defense payments and transfer illegal bribes to various U.S. Army contracting officials, including Majors Eddie Pressley, James Momon, and Chris Murray.

All of those individuals, as well as at least 10 other coconspirators, have pleaded guilty or been convicted of crimes relating to this scheme.  Charles admitted that he falsified loan and consulting agreements to conceal the true nature of the bribe payments to the Army officers, and that he personally received over $228,000 in illicit gains as a result of his participation.

This case was investigated by the DCIS, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, the FBI and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in this matter.  The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Peter N. Halpern and Robert J. Heberle of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

(Source: US Dept of Justice)

Iran-Iraq Relations in light of US Sanctions

By  for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News

The reimposition of US secondary sanctions has compelled Tehran to look for ways to reduce their negative impact.

According to Iranian officials, one of the strategies is to increase trade and interaction with its neighbors.

This is not new to Iran, as the country has pursued a policy of improving relations with immediate neighbors including investments in increased energy interdependency. Yet the past rationale for regional policy was more focused on security considerations.

This time, the rationale has been expanded to include trade and economic reasons. However, this strategy is facing challenges on multiple fronts, most importantly due to the existing tensions between Iran and her southern Arab region.

Click here to read the full story.

(Picture Credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Iran Worries about Losing Ground in Iraq

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

With rising US pressure, Iran worries about losing ground in Iraq

Iraqi President Barham Salih met with Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Nov. 17 in Tehran, where Khamenei underlined that Iraq must retain its Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). Khamenei stated that the PMU were among Iraq’s major achievements in the past few years.

Khamenei has reiterated this stance in previous meetings with Iraqi officials, including former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, which shows how important this matter is for Iran.

Meanwhile, the Donald Trump administration has insisted on the disarmament and disbanding of pro-Iran military factions in Iraq as part of the 12 conditions that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proposed to sign a new agreement with Iran instead of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the United States exited this year.

Click here to read the full story.

Convictions in $600m Dinar Fraud

The co-owners and chief operating officer of one of the largest Iraqi dinar exchangers in the United States were convicted last month by a federal jury following a five-week trial.

Tyson Rhame, James Shaw, and Frank Bell were each convicted of mail and wire fraud conspiracy, as well as multiple counts of mail and wire fraud. Rhame and Bell were also convicted of making false statements to federal law enforcement agents.

“These executives engaged in a lengthy campaign to defraud investors by spreading lies about the investment potential of the Iraqi dinar,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “These convictions resulted from years of investigation, which included dozens of electronic and physical search warrants, hundreds of witness interviews, and extensive financial analysis.”

“The conviction of these three defendants is the result of an extensive effort by the government to protect investors from those who make unsubstantiated claims about the potential revaluation of a foreign currency,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Their greed led them to steal the hopes of unsuspecting investors and ultimately led them to their demise. The FBI and its partners make it a priority to root out and punish anyone who preys on investors for their own selfish desires.”

“This was a trial about fraudulent inducements, conspiracy, investment fraud and outright greed,” said Thomas J. Holloman, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “Rhame, Shaw, and Bell saw an opportunity to build their personal net worth and business position in the currency market by seizing on investors’ desire for high returns on their investments. At the end of the trial, the jury agreed with the government and found the Sterling Currency Group co-owners and chief operating officer guilty of the conspiracy and the underlying frauds. Despite the challenges these complex cases present, IRS-CI is committed to working with our partners at the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to show white-collar fraud is still an investigative priority.”

According to Acting U.S Attorney Erskine, the charges, and other information presented in court: Rhame and Shaw owned and operated the Sterling Currency Group, which was once one of the country’s largest sellers of the Iraqi dinar. Bell was Sterling’s chief operating officer. Between 2010 and June 2015, Sterling grossed over $600 million in revenue from the sale of the Iraqi dinar and other currencies, while Rhame and Shaw received over $180 million in distributions.

The evidence at trial established that the defendants took steps to make investors believe they would get rich by investing in the Iraqi dinar. At one point, Rhame posted information on Sterling’s website falsely suggesting that the dinar was about to revalue. At other times, Rhame and Bell falsely claimed that Sterling would cash out investors at airports around the country following a dinar “revaluation.” The defendants also paid substantial sums of money to third parties who in turn spread false information about the dinar on conference calls and Internet chat rooms.

Tyson Rhame, 53, and James Shaw, 55, both of Atlanta, Georgia, and Frank Bell, 55, of Decatur, Georgia, were convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and multiple mail and wire fraud counts. Rhame and Bell were also convicted of making false statements to federal agents regarding Sterling’s operations. The jury acquitted the defendants of money laundering charges. A fourth defendant, Terrence Keller, was acquitted of all charges at trial.

(Source: US Dept of Justice)