Iraq says more than $60 mn stolen from Mosul after governor sacked

A man rides a motorcycle among devastated buildings in the old city of Mosul, in northern Iraq on April 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019

Iraq says more than $60 mn stolen from Mosul after governor sacked

  • Officials from the Nineveh province had embezzled a total of $64 million in public funds

BAGHDAD: More than $60 million dollars in public funds were embezzled by Mosul officials close to the province’s sacked governor in the wake of last month’s ferry sinking, Iraqi officials said Monday.
Iraq’s anti-corruption Integrity Commission said officials from the Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, had embezzled a total of $64 million in public funds.
They included nearly $40 million set aside to rebuild the city, which was ravaged by three years of Daesh group rule followed by months of fierce fighting to oust the jihadists.
The money was stolen in the aftermath of a tragic ferry sinking in March that left more than 100 people dead and prompted parliament to unanimously fire governor Nawfel Akoub, who has since gone on the run.
In its Monday statement, the Integrity Commission said officials “close to Akoub” had stolen the funds but did not accuse him personally.
It said 14 officials were detained earlier this month after its probe found that “cheques and wire transfers of public funds had been made out to the personal accounts of senior officials.”
Of the missing money, “just six million dollars” were recovered by the government, a commission member told AFP.
Parliament had been investigating accusations of profound corruption among Nineveh officials, and their results came to light amid outrage over the Mother’s Day ferry sinking.
Some officials have been arrested but Akoub remains at large, thought to be hiding out in Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.
Graft is endemic across Iraq, which ranks among the world’s worst offenders in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index.
Since 2004, a year after the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, a total of $228 billion has vanished into the pockets of shady politicians and businessmen, according to parliament.

Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019

Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.