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.


For Iranians, economic crisis looms larger than US tensions

Updated 27 min 44 sec ago
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For Iranians, economic crisis looms larger than US tensions

  • Iran’s 80 million people struggle to buy meat, medicine and other staples of daily life
  • Many pointed to the economy, not the possible outbreak of war

TEHRAN: Across Iran’s capital, the talk always seems to come back to how things may get worse.
Battered by US sanctions and its depreciating rial currency, Iran’s 80 million people struggle to buy meat, medicine and other staples of daily life.
Many pointed to the economy, not the possible outbreak of war, as Iran’s major concern. Iran’s rial currency traded at 32,000 to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear deal. Now it is at 148,000, and many have seen their life’s savings wiped out.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate is 12 percent. For youth it’s even worse, with a quarter of all young people unemployed, according to Iran’s statistic center.
“The economic situation is very bad, very bad. Unemployment is very high, and those who had jobs have lost theirs,” said Sadeghi, the housewife. “Young people can’t find good jobs, or get married, or become independent.”
Sores Maleki, a 62-year-old retired accountant, said talks with the US to loosen sanctions would help jumpstart Iran’s economy.
“We should go and talk to America with courage and strength. We are able to do that, others have done it,” Maleki said. “We can make concessions and win concessions. We have no other choice.”
But such negotiations will be difficult, said Reza Forghani, a 51-year-old civil servant. He said Iran needed to get the US to “sign a very firm contract that they can’t escape and have to honor.” Otherwise, Iran should drop out of the nuclear deal.
“When someone refuses to keep promises and commitments, you can tolerate it a couple of times, but then certainly you can’t remain committed forever. You will react,” Forghani said. “So I don’t think we should remain committed to the deal until the end.”
Yet for Iran’s youth, many of whom celebrated the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal in the streets, the situation now feels more akin to a funeral. Many openly discuss their options to obtain a visa — any visa — to get abroad.
“Young people have a lot of stress and the future is unknown,” said Hamedzadeh, the 20-year-old civil servant. “The future is so unknown that you can’t plan. The only thing they can do is to somehow leave Iran and build a life abroad.”