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
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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.


Citizen journalist among 11 civilians killed in northwest Syria

Updated 13 min 33 sec ago
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Citizen journalist among 11 civilians killed in northwest Syria

  • Anas Al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets

KHAN SHEIKHUN: A young citizen journalist was among 11 civilians killed in air raids on Syria’s Idlib region Sunday, rescue workers and a monitor said, as he filmed the Russia-backed regime bombardment of the battered enclave.
Anas Al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets who also contributed to AFP.
He was killed in Russian air strikes in the town of Khan Sheikhun, rescuers and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The White Helmets, rescue workers in rebel areas named after their distinctive hard hats, said the group “mourns the fall of a hero Anas Al-Dyab, a volunteer and media activist with the Syrian Civil Defense Center in Idlib,” in a Twitter post.
An AFP journalist saw White Helmet members gather to bid farewell to their friend, whose body was laid on a thick red blanket.
The Damascus regime and its Russian ally have stepped up their deadly bombardment of the jihadist-run region of Idlib since late April, despite a September buffer zone deal to protect the region of some three million people from a massive military assault.
Khan Sheikhun, a town in the south of Idlib, has been particularly hit, forcing thousands to flee their homes there, according to the United Nations.
But Dyab “chose to remain with his fellow volunteers in Khan Sheikhun till today,” the White Helmets said.
Raed Al-Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, said Dyab was killed while “trying to show the world what’s going on in Syria.”
“It’s a great loss,” he said.
Dyab, who was single, leaves behind his parents and three brothers, one of whom is held by the Damascus regime, Saleh said.
The Observatory said Dyab was hiding in the cellar of a three-story building with two members of the Jaish Al-Ezza rebel group when the strike happened.
Also on Sunday, regime air strikes killed 10 other civilians including three children in other parts of the bastion, said the Britain-based monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.
Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham in January took full administrative control of the Idlib region, although other jihadists and rebels are also present.
The Idlib region is supposed to be protected by a September 2018 deal between Russia and rebel backer Turkey, but a buffer zone planned under that accord was never fully implemented.
The White Helmets, who are backed by the West, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.
But Moscow and Damascus accuse the group of backing rebels and jihadists.
Syria’s war has killed a total of more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.