Iraq: former governor of Nineveh arrested for embezzlement

Nawfal Akoub was fired from his position in March 2019 after a ferry sank killing 150 people in Mosul

Medical equipment are pictured abandoned in the compound of the destroyed Mosul general Hospital on October 12, 2020 in northen Iraq. Iraq in December will marked the third anniversary since declaring victory in the three-year war against the Islamic State (IS) group, which had left the country's former second city and the jihadists' capital in ruin. / AFP / Zaid AL-OBEIDI

A notorious Iraqi official, known for his involvement in corruption deals, was arrested this week for the embezzlement of millions of dollars, as he attempted to pay bail for another case.

Nawfal Akoub, who has been under US sanctions for corruption, was fired as governor of Nineveh in March 2019 after a ferry sank killing 150 people.

He avoided arrest by hiding in the northern autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

"Nineveh's former governor was arrested after a court order was issued," Iraq’s anti-corruption commission said in a statement.

He is accused of taking nearly $64 million in public funds along with officials close to him, the statement said.

Mr Akoub has been accused of bribery, profiteering, misuse of power, waste of public money and negligence.

The money he allegedly stole was meant to go towards the reconstruction of Mosul, including the rebuilding of two hospitals and support for those who lost their homes in the war against ISIS.

The northern Nineveh province was left in ruins after more than two years under the rule of ISIS and a devastating battle to retake the city from the insurgents.

Swathes of it still lie in ruins, with entire neighbourhoods flattened and thousands of families unable to return to homes littered with unexploded ordnance.

Oil-rich Iraq ranks 162 out of 180 nations in Transparency International’s Corruption Index.

Seventeen years after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the country still suffers a shortage of electricity, water, schools and hospitals, while existing facilities and infrastructure suffer widespread neglect.

Almost $450 billion of public funds have vanished into the pockets of shady politicians and businessmen, according to parliament.

In 2018, Baghdad managed to shore up $30 billion in pledges from international donors in a pledging conference hosted by Kuwait to rebuild the Nineveh province.

But virtually none of the funds have been disbursed and corruption and bureaucracy has slowed down progress on rebuilding the province.