Iraq sentences former minister in absentia on graft charges

Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Taner Yildiz, left, meets with Iraqi Trade Minister Malas Mohammed Al-Kasnazani during his official visit to Baghdad, in 2015. Al-Kasnazani and two senior Trade Ministry officials have been sentenced to prison on charges of corruption. (Getty Images)
Updated 30 November 2018
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Iraq sentences former minister in absentia on graft charges

  • Al-Kasnazani briefly served as trade minister in the previous government of Iraqi Premier Haider Abadi
  • Investigators at the Integrity Commission said three officials were found guilty of graft charges linked to rice imports

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s judiciary on Thursday sentenced a former trade minister and two other high-ranking officials in absentia to seven years in prison each on charges of corruption.
Investigators at the Integrity Commission said the three officials were found guilty of graft charges linked to rice imports, embezzling up to $14.3 million of public funds.
Its statement cited a decision issued by Baghdad’s Special Court for Crimes Against Integrity, saying the court “reached the sufficient threshold of proof, and sentenced each official to seven years in prison.”
It also granted banks the authority to freeze their assets.
It did not name those sentenced, but a source at the Commission told AFP that they included former minister Malas Abdulkarim Al-Kasnazani and two senior trade ministry officials.
Al-Kasnazani briefly served as trade minister in the previous government of Iraqi Premier Haider Abadi, but was sacked in December 2015 for failing to show up to work.

 

At the time, he was widely believed to have fled to Amman after being slapped with an arrest warrant on charges of corruption.
In the 1990s, Al-Kasnazani and two of his brothers were briefly arrested for forging the signature of ex-President Saddam Hussein.
Al-Kasnazani is the second trade minister to be given a jail term for corruption in the past year alone.
Abdel Falah Al-Sudani, who served in the post following the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, had also been sentenced in absentia for graft over food imports.
He was extradited from Lebanon last year by Interpol, then handed over to Baghdad and subsequently sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Iraq is the 12th most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International
The embezzlement of public goods — from land to government funds — is a deeply rooted problem in a country with such a large public sector.
Corruption, shell companies and “phantom” public employees who receive salaries but do not work have cost the country the equivalent of $228 billion dollars since 2003, according to Iraq’s parliament.
That figure is more than Iraq’s gross domestic product and nearly three times the annual budget.

FASTFACTS

Corruption, shell companies and “phantom” public employees who receive salaries but do not work have cost the country the equivalent of $228 billion since 2003, according to Iraq’s Parliament.


BMW plans massive cost cuts to keep profits from sputtering

Updated 20 March 2019
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BMW plans massive cost cuts to keep profits from sputtering

  • ‘Our business model must remain a profitable one in the digital era,’ chief executive Harald Krueger said
  • Total number of employees is set to remain flat at around 135,000 worldwide

MUNICH: German high-end carmaker BMW warned Wednesday it expects pre-tax profits “well below” 2018 levels this year as it announced a massive cost-cutting scheme aimed at saving $13.6 billion (€12 billion) in total by 2022.
A spokesman said that “well below” could indicate a tumble of more than 10 percent.
The Munich-based group’s 2019 result will be burdened with massive investments needed for the transition to electric cars, exchange rate headwinds and rising raw materials prices, it said in a statement.
Meanwhile it must pump more cash into measures to meet strict European carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions limits set to bite from next year.
And a one-off windfall in 2018’s results will create a negative comparison, even though pre-tax profits already fell 8.1 percent last year.
Bosses expect a “slight increase” in sales of BMW and Mini cars, with a slightly fatter operating margin that will nevertheless fall short of their 8.0-percent target.
“We will continue to implement forcefully the necessary measures for growth, continuing performance increases and efficiency,” finance director Nicolas Peter said at the group’s annual press conference.
BMW aims to achieve €12 billion of savings in the coming years through “efficiency improvements” including reducing the complexity of its range.
“Our business model must remain a profitable one in the digital era,” chief executive Harald Krueger said.
This year, most new recruits at the group will be IT specialists, while the total number of employees is set to remain flat at around 135,000 worldwide.
Departures from the sizeable fraction of the workforce born during the post-World War II baby boom and now reaching retirement age “will allow us to adapt the business even more to future topics,” BMW said.
All the firm’s forecasts are based on London and Brussels reaching a deal for an orderly Brexit and the United States foregoing new import taxes on European cars.
“Developments in tariffs” remain “a significant factor of uncertainty” in looking to the future, finance chief Peter said, adding that “the preparations for the UK’s exit from the EU will weigh on 2019’s results as well.”
In annual results released ahead of schedule last Friday, BMW blamed trade headwinds and new EU emissions tests for net profits tumbling 16.9 percent in 2018, to €7.2 billion.