8 Billion lost in Iraq due to corruption

Huh? The US returned sovereignty to Iraq? Perhaps Bush should tack on an extra 8 billion along with all the Democratic additions to his war budget to cover the cost of corruption!

Iraq loses $8 billion through corruption

Associated Press Writers
Wed Apr 4, 3:48 PM ET

Iraq's top corruption fighter said Wednesday that $8 billion in
government money was wasted or stolen over the past three years and
claimed he was threatened with death after opening an investigation
into scores of Oil Ministry employees.

In the chaos and lawlessness of Iraq, such threats are not taken
lightly. Radi al-Radhi, who runs the Public Integrity Commission,
leads one of the more dangerous missions in the country. He said in an
interview with The Associated Press that 20 members of the
organization have been murdered since it began its work.

In perhaps the most publicized recent case, an estimated $2 billion
disappeared from funds to rebuild the electricity infrastructure.

Former Electricity Minister Ayham al-Samaraie, who holds both U.S. and
Iraqi citizenship, was convicted in that case and sentenced to two
years in prison. He escaped from an Iraqi-run jail in the Green Zone
on Dec. 17 and turned up in Chicago on Jan. 15. Al-Samaraie has said
the Americans helped him escape.

Al-Radhi said the commission has investigated about 2,600 corruption
cases since it was established in March 2004, a few months before the
United States returned sovereignty to Iraq. He estimated $8 billion
has vanished or been misappropriated.

Corruption in the country, while traditionally rampant, is encouraged
by constitutional clause 136 B, al-Radhi said. It gives Cabinet
ministers the power to block his investigations.

So far, he said, ministers have blocked probes into the theft or
misspending of an estimated additional $55 million in public funds.

Two years ago he asked the Constitutional Court to strike the clause,
but the panel has never issued a ruling.

On Wednesday, he took the matter to Parliament Speaker Mahmoud
al-Mashhadani, who promised to back his efforts before the court,
al-Radhi said. Al-Mashhadani's office confirmed that they met and said
the parliament speaker promised to support the anti-corruption move.

Senior government officials and Cabinet ministers are accused of a
variety of schemes.

In February, for example, U.S. and Iraqi forces seized Deputy Health
Minister Hakim al-Zamili, a supporter of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr. He reportedly orchestrated kickback schemes related to
inflated contracts for equipment and services, with millions of
dollars allegedly funneled to al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. Al-Zamili
was suspected of employing militiamen who used Health Ministry
facilities and services for "sectarian kidnapping and murder," the
U.S. military has said.

Al-Radhi said that after starting an investigation of 180 Oil Ministry
employees in the southern province of Basra, he and another colleague
received death threats.

"I and Haidar Ashour, our representative in southern Iraq, have
received threats by telephone accusing us of being former regime
elements (supporters of the late Saddam Hussein)," said al-Radhi. He
was a judge during the former leader's rule, a job that required
al-Radhi to join Saddam's Baath party.

"'If you don't stop the investigation, you will be killed,'" al-Radhi
quoted the caller as saying. The threat was issued in the name of the
little-known Southern Region Movement.

Commission records show arrest warrants have been issued for about 90
former Iraqi officials, including 15 ministers, on charges of
corruption. Most have fled the country.

In October, parliament removed immunity from lawmaker Mishan
al-Jabouri, opening the door for prosecutors to charge him with
siphoning off some $7 million a month intended to pay for food for
three units of the pipeline protection force. Al-Jabouri's whereabouts
are unknown; he has not been arrested.

Former Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan, who served under then-Prime
Minister Ayad Allawi in 2004 and early 2005, is facing corruption
allegations involving $1 billion in missing funds. Shaalan has denied

The Iraq war has proven a temptation for many in the United States as

A quarterly audit released Jan. 31 by Stuart Bowen Jr., the special
inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, found the $300 billion U.S.
war and reconstruction effort continues to be plagued with waste and

According to Bowen's report, the State Department paid $43.8 million
to contractor DynCorp International for a residential camp for police
training personnel outside of Baghdad's Adnan Palace grounds. The camp
has been empty for months. About $4.2 million of the money was
improperly spent on 20 VIP trailers and an Olympic-size pool, all
ordered by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior but never authorized by the

U.S. officials spent an additional $36.4 million for weapons such as
armored vehicles, body armor and communications equipment that cannot
be accounted for. DynCorp also may have prematurely billed $18 million
in other potentially unjustified costs, the report said.

Early in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, hundreds of millions of dollars
were wasted on unnecessary and overpriced equipment for the Iraqi
army. Much of that waste came during Allawi's tenure as transitional
prime minister.

Iraqi investigators probed several weapons and equipment deals
engineered by one-time procurement officer Ziad Cattan and other
defense officials. Cattan is believed to be in hiding.

One case involves Polish weapons maker Bumar, which signed a $236
million contract in December 2004 to equip the Iraqi army with
helicopters, ambulances, pistols, machine guns and water tanks. Added
to other deals, Bumar's contracts with the Iraqi army totaled nearly
$300 million.

Iraqi officials said that when Iraqi experts traveled to Europe to
check on their purchase of the transport choppers, they discovered the
aircraft, which cost tens of millions of dollars, were 28 years old
and outdated. They refused to take them and returned home

At the time, a spokeswoman for Bumar denied the company ever provided
Iraq with poor-quality helicopters and said that although they were
several years old and used, this was at the request of the Iraqi
Defense Ministry.

Another case involving Cattan was a deal to purchase 7.62 mm bullets
for machine guns and rifles. Iraqi officials said the bullets should
have cost between 4 and 6 cents apiece but the ministry was eventually
charged 16 cents per bullet.


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