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

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.


Britain, EU tell each other to move on trade

Updated 20 October 2020

Britain, EU tell each other to move on trade

  • Both sides call on each other to protect billions of dollars of trade between the neighbors

BRUSSELS: Britain and the EU said on Monday the door was still open for a deal on their post-Brexit relationship, calling on each other to compromise to find a way to protect billions of dollars of trade between the neighbors.

With just over two months before Britain ends a status quo transition arrangement with the EU, talks on a trade deal are deadlocked, with neither wanting to move first to offer concessions.

A no-deal finale to Britain’s five-year Brexit drama would disrupt the operations of manufacturers, retailers, farmers and nearly every other sector — just as the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic repeated on Monday that the EU still wanted a trade deal but not “at any cost” after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday there was no point in continuing talks.

“It has to be a fair agreement for both sides — we are not going to sign an agreement at any cost,” Sefcovic told reporters after meeting Michael Gove, Britain’s point man on the existing divorce agreement, in London.

“The EU is ready to work until the last minute for a good agreement for both parties,” Sefcovic said.

Britain, increasingly frustrated by the EU’s refusal to start text-based talks, called on the bloc to make the first move, with its housing minister saying that Brussels only had to make “some relatively small but important changes.”

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick called on the EU to “go that extra mile, to come closer to us on the points that remain for discussion.”

A spokesman for Johnson again ruled out prolonging any negotiation beyond the end of this year, when the transition period runs out, saying the EU “must be ready to discuss the detailed legal text of a treaty in all areas with a genuine wish to respect UK sovereignty and independence.”

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had been due in London for talks with British counterpart David Frost this week. Instead, they will now speak by telephone on Monday to discuss the structure of future talks, Barnier’s spokesman said.

Negotiations broke down on Thursday, when the EU demanded Britain give ground. Issues still to be resolved include fair competition rules, including state aid and fisheries. EU diplomats and officials cast Johnson’s move as a frantic bid to secure concessions before a last-minute deal was done, and European leaders have asked Barnier to continue talks.

British officials have repeatedly said any deal has to honor Britain’s new status as a sovereign country and not try to tie it to EU rules and regulations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said compromises on both sides would be needed. French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain needed a deal more than the 27-nation EU.

Britain is launching a campaign this week urging businesses to step up preparations for a no-deal departure. In a statement accompanying the launch, Gove says: “Make no mistake, there are changes coming in just 75 days and time is running out for businesses to act.”

More than 70 British business groups representing over 7 million workers on Sunday urged politicians to get back to the negotiating table next week and strike a deal.