Iraq asks Egypt to extradite officials convicted on corruption charges

Iraq ranks 157 out of 180 in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index

Head of the Iraqi Commission for Integrity, Judge Haider Hanoun, meets Egypt's Minister of Justice Omar Marwan in Cairo and hands him a list of 'wanted persons' accused of corruption. Photo: Iraqi Commission for Integrity
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Iraq has asked Egypt to extradite Iraqis convicted on graft charges, as part of a push to repatriate corrupt officials.

The head of the Iraqi Commission for Integrity, Judge Haider Hanoun, met Egyptian Minister of Justice Omar Marwan in Cairo and handed him a list of “wanted persons", a statement released on Monday said.

The statement did not specify their names, designations or give other details, but said “it has been confirmed” that the people on the list are in Egypt.

Mr Marwan promised to “follow up the issue and give it the utmost priority.”

During the visit, both sides signed an initial agreement to boost co-operation in fighting corruption, including repatriating the accused and smuggled funds.

Iraq is considered one of most corrupt countries in the world, ranking 157 out of 180 in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index for 2022.

The widespread corruption has crippled the country’s efforts to overcome the effects of war and UN-imposed economic sanctions.

In 2021, former president Barham Salih estimated that Iraq had lost $150 billion to embezzlement since 2003.

Iraqi Prime Minister vows to stamp out corruption

Iraqi Prime Minister vows to stamp out corruption

'Real war'

In an exclusive interview with The National, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani on Monday said fighting corruption was among his top priorities.

“There is a real war against corruption,” Mr Al Sudani said during his participation in the UN General Assembly in New York.

“On a daily basis, we are working to recover funds and recover those who took the funds … we follow up on all information, even a statement post on social media,” he said.

Responding to those who question how effective the fight against corruption is, he stressed that there is no “political manipulation when it comes to corruption … we are fighting it in reality, not only in media statements”.

Corruption scandals

Late last year, a former minister revealed that 3.7 trillion Iraqi dinars ($2.5 billion) was embezzled from the tax authority in what is being described locally as “the theft of the century”.

The amount was stolen between September 2021 and August 2022 through 247 cheques that were cashed by five companies.

It was then withdrawn in cash from the accounts of these companies, most of whose owners are on the run.

Authorities have arrested a number of government officials and businessmen involved in the theft which is seen as one of the country's worst corruption cases, and retrieved part of the stolen money.

In March, Iraq's judiciary issued arrest warrants for four men, including a former finance minister and staff members of former prime minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, who Baghdad said now all live outside the country.

Mr Kadhimi has defended his record on fighting corruption, saying his government had uncovered the case, launched an investigation and taken legal action.

Last month, Judge Hanoun called on the US and Britain to extradite the former officials accused of helping in the theft and to execute the arrest warrants issued against them.

Also late last year, the National Security Service announced the arrest of a criminal network that siphoned crude oil from pipelines in remote areas of southern Iraq and smuggled it out of the county. Senior interior ministry and intelligence officers were arrested, including one repatriated from abroad.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, the PM described corruption as a “pandemic”.

“Many international organisations have issued reports citing the spread of corruption in Iraq” he said. “We have diagnosed this disease and we have named it the corruption pandemic.”

In an interview last week with CNN, he appealed to the international community to help Iraq in repatriating corrupt officials with dual nationalities and the funds they smuggled abroad.

Updated: September 26, 2023, 9:41 AM