At border with Iran, Iraq PM vows to fight customs corruption

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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi speaks to the media at Mandali border crossing between Iraq and Iran, in Mandali, Iraq July 11, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani/Pool
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Iraqi border police stand guard on the Iraqi side of the Mandili crossing on the border with Iran on July 11, 2020. (AFP)
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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi speaks to the press at the Mandili crossing on the border with Iran on July 11, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 11 July 2020

At border with Iran, Iraq PM vows to fight customs corruption

  • “This is the beginning of our promise to combat corruption. The first phase is to protect border crossings with new security forces,” Al-Kadhimi said
  • Iraq imports virtually all of its consumer goods from its neighbors Iran or Turkey

MANDILI BORDER CROSSING: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi launched a new campaign on Saturday against corruption at the country’s borders, saying millions of dollars were being lost by not properly taxing imported goods.
Speaking at the Mandili crossing on the border with Iran, Kadhimi said Iraq’s frontier had become “a hotbed for corrupt people.”
“This is the beginning of our promise to combat corruption. The first phase is to protect border crossings with new security forces,” he said.
“The second is to fight ‘ghosts’ trying to blackmail Iraqis, and the third is to automate the crossing with new technology,” the premier said, standing alongside Border Crossing Commission head Omar Al-Waeli.
In response to a question by AFP, Kadhimi added: “We encourage businessmen (importing goods) to pay the customs, not the bribes.”
“This will serve as a message to all corrupt people.”
Iraq imports virtually all of its consumer goods from either its eastern neighbor Iran or its northern neighbor Turkey.
But government officials, foreign diplomats and businessmen have long complained that the import process at both borders is complicated and rife with corruption.
They accuse customs offices of getting kickbacks from traders in exchange for charging no or low import duties.
In June, Finance Minister Ali Allawi said the government would seek to boost its non-oil revenues, including through import duties, to make up for the collapse in state income from falling oil prices.
“The ports should give us revenues of seven trillion Iraqi dinar a year. We only get one trillion right now,” he told reporters at the time.
“To close that gap, we’ll need a string of reforms to the customs administration,” he said.
Mandili was established in 2014 and is currently controlled by a mix of intelligence forces and the Hashed Al-Shaabi, a state-sponsored network of groups including many close to Tehran.
There was no noticeable activity at the border on Saturday, as all of Iraq’s 32 crossings remain officially closed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Hashed fighters could be seen standing in the blistering midsummer sun.
Iraq is ranked one of the top 20 most corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International, with some $450 billion in public funds vanishing into the pockets of shady politicians and businessmen since 2003.
Every premier has pledged new measures to fight corruption but few have been able to make a dent in the deep-rooted practices across the public and private sector.


Iran virus deaths surge past 24,000

Updated 20 September 2020

Iran virus deaths surge past 24,000

  • President Hassan Rouhani blamed people’s failure to observe preventive measures, especially wearing masks, for the surge in cases

JEDDAH: The official coronavirus death toll in Iran surged past 24,000 on Saturday as health chiefs admitted 90 percent of COVID-19 patients on ventilators in hospital were dying.

Payam Tabarsi, head of infectious diseases at Masih Daneshvari Hospital in Tehran, said the number of emergency room patients had jumped from 68 a day to 200 in the past week. “People are queuing to be admitted,” he said, and if the trend continued, deaths from coronavirus could reach 600 a day within weeks.

Iran’s total number of confirmed cases in the past 24 hours spiked by 2,845 to 419,043 and the death toll rose by 166 to 24,118, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said.

Iran was slow to react to the first coronavirus cases in February, and is now battling the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak. Daily infections have remained above 2,000 for the past two weeks and are nearing the 3,574 high reached in early June.

Analysts both inside and outside Iran are skeptical of the official figures and believe the true level of infections and deaths is far higher. President Hassan Rouhani blamed people’s failure to observe preventive measures, especially wearing masks, for the surge in cases.

“Today, the Health Ministry gave a worrying report,” he said on Saturday. “The public’s observance, which was 82 percent in earlier weeks, has fallen to 62 percent.”

FASTFACTS

  • Iran’s total number of confirmed cases in the past 24 hours spiked by 2,845 to 419,043 and the death toll rose by 166 to 24,118. •Daily infections have remained above 2,000 for the past two weeks and are nearing the 3,574 high reached in early June. •551 new cases were reported in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, taking the total to 329,271. •Worldwide, the virus has infected just under 31 million people and killed nearly 960,000, amid fears of a ‘second wave.’
  • Daily infections have remained above 2,000 for the past two weeks and are nearing the 3,574 high reached in early June.
  • 551 new cases were reported in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, taking the total to 329,271.
  • Worldwide, the virus has infected just under 31 million people and killed nearly 960,000, amid fears of a ‘second wave.’

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia daily coronavirus case numbers have fallen to a five-month low after 551 new cases were reported on Saturday, taking the total to 329,271. The death toll rose by 28 to 4,458. The last time the Kingdom recorded numbers in the 500s was April 15, when 518 cases were reported.

Worldwide, the virus has infected just under 31 million people and killed nearly 960,000, amid fears of a “second wave” of the pandemic after the first outbreaks early in the year.

European countries from Denmark to Greece have announced new restrictions to curb surging infections in some of their largest cities, and Britain is considering new measures to tackle an “inevitable” second wave of COVID-19.

The UK has reported the fifth-largest number of deaths from COVID-19 in the world, after the US, Brazil, India and Mexico. “We are now seeing a second wave coming in ... it is absolutely, I’m afraid, inevitable, that we will see it in this country,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

England’s public health chief Yvonne Doyle said: “We’re seeing clear signs this virus is now spreading across all age groups and I am particularly worried by the increase … among older people. This could be a warning of far worse things to come.”