Iraq’s president said Sunday $150 billion from oil had been smuggled out of the country since Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003, as he introduced a law to fight endemic corruption.
Analysts in Baghdad said the bill will embarrass politicians who will not dare oppose the initiative even if most of them are involved in acts of corruption.
The analysts see Saleh’s move as boosting his own political fortunes and that of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi prior to elections while painting politicians and political parties into a tight corner.
President Barham Saleh presented a draft law to parliament to fight corruption, recover stolen funds and hold perpetrators to account, a statement read.
An estimated $150 billion of stolen money has been smuggled out of Iraq in corrupt deals since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraqi President Barham Salih says. https://t.co/3LNBdIkVeC— CNN (@CNN) May 24, 2021
He called “on parliament to adopt this crucial piece of legislation, in order to curb this pervasive practice that has plagued our great nation”.
Transparency International ranks the country 21st from bottom in its Corruption Perceptions Index.
“Of the close to a trillion dollars made from oil since 2003, an estimated $150 billion of stolen money has been smuggled out of Iraq,” Saleh added, calling for cooperation with other governments and international bodies to recover the funds.
Endemic corruption was one of the drivers of protests that shook Iraq from October 2019 to June 2020.
“Corruption is an impediment to any nation’s economic and social development,” the Iraqi head of state said, whose powers are limited under the constitution.
“It deprives citizens of opportunities and livelihoods and robs them of essential services and infrastructure,” he added.
Saleh said violence and terrorism, which have plagued Iraq for years, “are deeply intertwined with the phenomenon of corruption”.
The draft law targets those who have held positions of director general and above in both government and public companies since the establishment of a new regime in 2004.
Iraqi president signals intent to go after corruption proceeds. Says corruption has cost #Iraq $1 trillion through lost oil revenue since 2003. $150 billion in corruption proceeds believed held in other countries. https://t.co/MBePjSUH3n— jane arraf (@janearraf) May 23, 2021
Under the law, transactions over $500,000 would be scrutinised as well as bank accounts, particularly those that held over $1 million and contracts or investments obtained through corruption would be cancelled.
But security and politics expert Fadel Abo Ragheef was sceptical the law would be passed.
“It’s certainly one of the best pieces of legislation proposed by the executive branch since 2003. But will it be adopted? I doubt it,” he said.
“The political parties the lawmakers belong to will act to sabotage it, so it doesn’t pass,” he said.
“In public they will support it, but behind the scenes, they will do everything to prevent its adoption, because many of the politicians are involved in this racket”.
An Iraqi political analyst said “the move portrays Saleh and Kadhimi as embarked on a common anti-corruption campaign as politicians act as if the corrupt practices are the work of extra-terrestrials and not theirs.”
An Iraqi banking source said politicians have smuggled $60 billion out of the country.
However, much of that was via Lebanon, a move now likely to their detriment, as the country is mired in a severe economic crisis and it is almost impossible to get money out of its banks.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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