Iraqi Finance Ministry finds $2.5 billion stolen from government account
An investigation by the Iraqi Ministry of Finance discovered Sunday that $2.5 billion US was stolen from a government tax commission account by five companies in what amounts to one of the biggest corruption scandals in the nation’s history.
In total, taxpayer revenues totaling 3.7 trillion Iraqi dinars were diverted from a government account at the Rafidain Bank in Baghdad – a state-owned bank and the largest in Iraq – between September 2021 and August 2022.
During this period, 247 checks were cashed by five companies, three of which were incorporated a little over a month before the scheme began, said Sajad Jiyad, an Iraqi political analyst.
The purpose of the account was to hold funds for “companies that held contracts with the public sector, to be repaid once the projects were completed,” Jiyad explained.
“These sums were stolen by the companies through the checks issued by the General Tax Commissioner instead of going to the real beneficiaries”, concluded the internal investigation.
“Who are the real owners of these companies, who authorized the giving of these checks to the companies, how could this have gone unnoticed for a year?” Jiyad asked in a Tweeterwhile also calling for an immediate investigation to identify politicians “accomplices in this massive corruption/theft”.
Acting Finance Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar was forced to resign shortly after the scandal emerged.
“We will not allow Iraqis’ money to be stolen,” Prime Minister-designate Mohammad Shia al-Sudani said in a statement. pledge to deal with endemic corruption in the country. Sudani further clarified that resolving the case would be the top priority of his new administration.
The Iraqi Integrity Commission, an independent commission charged with investigating corruption at all levels of government, has been made aware of the case.
While the country’s justice system is also implicated, it’s too early to tell whether the puppeteers behind the plot will ever be brought to justice, nor is it guaranteed that the funds will ever be recovered.
Public outrage over state corruption was at the forefront of the 2019-2021 Iraqi protests, which left hundreds dead at the hands of police brutality and led to the resignation of former prime minister Adil Abdul Mahdi.
Iraq has the unfortunate honor of being one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Index ranked it tied for 157th out of 180 countries, although it improved its 160th ranking from the previous year.