Iraq says it still has Qatari money sent to free ruling family members

Prime minister Haider Al Abadi says the money was in the central bank in Baghdad after reports that the cash was paid to Shiite militias and may have ended up in Iran.

The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim meets a number of people at Doha airport in April 2017 after their release from captivity in Iraq. Qatar reportedly paid hundreds of millions of dollars to an Iranian-backed Shiite militia that had kidnapped the 26 hostages in 2015. (Qatar News Agency via AP, File)
Powered by automated translation

BAGHDAD // Iraq still has hundreds of millions of dollars sent by Qatar to secure the release of members of the Qatari ruling family abducted in 2015, prime minister Haider Al Abadi said on Sunday.

Press reports had suggested that some of the money ended up in Iran, angering some Gulf countries.

But Mr Al Abadi said in comments broadcast on state television on Sunday that the money was in the central bank in Baghdad, pending a decision on what to do with it.

“Not one dollar, or euro ... was spent; they are still in their crates, supervised by a committee, and two representatives of the Qatari government came to check when they were deposited under the trusteeship of the central bank,” he said.

The decision on how to dispose of the money “has a political aspect and has a legal aspect, it will be taken in conformity with Iraqi law,” he said, without elaborating.

The prime minister said in April that authorities had seized suitcases containing hundreds of millions of dollars on a private Qatari jet that landed in Baghdad. He suggested the funds were part of a deal to free the Qatari hostages without Baghdad’s approval.

The 26 hostages, including members of Qatar’s ruling royal family, were abducted during a hunting trip in southern Iraq in 2015. It is unclear how their release in April was negotiated.

No one claimed responsibility for the abductions, which took place near a Saudi border area dominated by Shiite militias close to Iran.

* Reuters