Iraq calls on US, UK to hand over "Century Theft" key perpetrators

Iraq calls on US, UK to hand over "Century Theft" key perpetrators

Shafaq News / Head of Iraq's Integrity Commission, Judge Haider Hanoun, called on the US and the UK, on Sunday, to hand over the former Prime Minister's office director, and the former heads of intelligence and finance, for their involvement in the infamous "Century Theft" tax embezzlement case.

During a press conference held in the capital, Baghdad, Judge Hanoun stated that the tax embezzlement case is the most significant corruption case uncovered to date, as it combines corruption with betrayal. He emphasized that the aim of this crime was not only to steal public funds but also to undermine trust in the state, its institutions, and its officials.

He warned the perpetrators that their crimes will not go unpunished and urged them not to rely on time to forget their misdeeds, "The stolen funds, which belong to the Iraqi people, will be recovered, and those responsible will be brought to justice and face the consequences of their actions."

Judge Hanoun called upon the countries where the fugitives reside to cooperate with Iraq's Federal Integrity Commission (CoI) and the Arab and International Police Directorate within the Ministry of Interior to locate and apprehend them. "This cooperation is crucial for the repatriation of the stolen funds and to ensure that these individuals are brought before the Iraqi judiciary to complete the investigative and judicial procedures against them."

He also mentioned that red notices have been issued for the former Prime Minister's office director and the former head of intelligence, who hold American citizenship, as well as the former private secretary of the government, also with American nationality.

Furthermore, he emphasized the need to issue a red notice for the former finance minister, who held British citizenship and was part of the previous government headed by Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Judge Hanoun stated that these individuals are among the major suspects in the tax embezzlement case.

The head of CoI urged the relevant authorities in the US and the UK to execute the arrest warrants issued against these individuals, per Article 316 of the amended Iraqi Penal Code, Law No. 11 of 1969.

The "Century Theft" case was revealed last October, sparking great discontent in Iraq, which has witnessed massive protests calling for ending corruption in recent years.

The scandal was brought to public attention by Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar Ismail, the then acting finance minister under Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who was forced to resign from that role in the face of parliamentary opposition to his appointment shortly afterward.

In the embezzlement, an amount of 3.7 trillion Iraqi dinars (almost $2.5 billion) was fraudulently paid to five companies by the Iraqi General Commission of Taxes (IGCT). The money was paid through 247 cheques between September 9, 2021, and August 11, 2022, from the commission's account at the state-run Rafidain Bank.

According to the findings of an internal investigation, the companies —at least three of them established last year— submitted fake documents for their claims.

Those funds were deposited by trading companies and individuals as a guarantee to pay taxes after finishing projects commissioned by the government or importing goods. The companies and individuals can later apply to withdraw what is left from their deposits after deducting the taxes.

It is noteworthy that corruption has been rife in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Many politicians have been arrested or removed from office for the practice.

Iraq is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It ranked 157th out of 180 nations on Transparency International’s 2021 corruption index.

More over, Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani has vowed to crack down on corruption and recover all the money stolen from the tax agency.

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