Where are Iraq’s attempts to recover its looted funds?

Iraq is among the countries most affected by corruption, embezzlement and smuggling of public funds abroad. In this regard, the Department of Recovery of the Federal Integrity Administration works to recover smuggled funds from the country.

The Federal Integrity Commission is the body responsible for gathering information and tracking suspects wanted under the law, and has developed work programs and plans for cooperation with competent authorities inside and outside Iraq.

international move

Legal expert Ali Al-Tamimi believes that the Money Laundering Agreement from 2005 regarding the return of smuggled funds, especially its articles 55 and 56, clarified the way to return these funds, which are estimated at 500 billion dollars.

He pointed out that the US Federal Reserve Bank has $65 billion belonging to the former regime, which is property of the Iraqi people that can be claimed under Article 28 of the 2008 Iraq-US Strategic Agreement, which allows Iraq to request economic aid from America.

He added that countries fighting under Chapter VII can request economic assistance from the Security Council in accordance with Article 50 of the United Nations Charter, and Great Britain and France expressed their willingness to help, especially if Iraq was fighting the terrorist organization “ISIS”. ” according to Chapter VII, according to Resolution 2170 of the Security Council. .

expected effect

For his part, the head of the Al-Nahrain Foundation for Transparency and Integrity Support, Muhammad Rahim Al-Rubaie, stated that the return of funds has no impact on the economic situation, as these amounts will be returned to the Ministry of Finance. , and will again be included in the funds of the general budget of the state, especially since the recovery procedures are somewhat complicated, and require legal and diplomatic efforts and international cooperation agreements, and above all, real political will to restore it.

He emphasized that Iraq must find work mechanisms that help achieve economic development through programs that touch the increasingly bad economic reality, and work on its improvement after the return of those funds, and this is possible through the establishment of a special fund.

As for the secretary general of the “Enough is Enough” movement, MP Rahim al-Darraji, a member of the Finance Committee of the third parliamentary session, he believes that the return of these funds will effectively contribute to improving the economic situation, but the possibility of this depends on the current circumstances, “because it is not possible return our looted money in light of a class A corrupt politician who previously clearly contributed to the theft of Iraqi people’s money, and these corrupt politicians are actually ambassadors of a foreign country, which gave them passports, and enabled them to smuggle the people’s money for the benefit of their banks and local markets .

How to recover

In the context of this issue, Al-Rubaie stated that through international cooperation and bilateral agreements with the countries where these funds are located, it is necessary for the Iraqi government to make a strong effort to use all available tools through the Arab Network to promote integrity and fight corruption and benefit from Iraq’s membership in the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

He added, “Iraq must implement the looted money recovery fund law, as in a number of countries, and spend the recovered money on infrastructure projects in poor areas and not return the money to the Ministry of Finance, in order to encourage society to engage in the process of fighting corruption and supporting integrity.”

a whirlwind in a teacup

There are more than seven committees dealing with the return of looted funds in the departments of the Iraqi state, and there are also employees who receive salaries, and with all these privileges, these committees have not met since their establishment until today, nor could they return the names of the stolen or looted funds, according to what the Secretary General told ” Plenty of movement.

Al-Darraji believes there is difficulty in recovering these funds because they have turned into real estate, investments, stakes in local and international companies and bank accounts, noting that most of them are registered in names other than those of their thieves, and any announcement by this political class the fight against corruption is a whirlwind in a glass, we hear about it but we don’t see it.

Speaking to reporters, the head of the Integrity Commission, Judge Alaa Jawad Al-Saadi, indicated that the amounts ordered for restitution are estimated at more than one billion and 416 million dollars. “Criminal and first-instance” courts require the escaped convict to pay the victim of his criminal offense the amount of damage he caused to public money, that is, which he illegally stole.

He pointed to the Integrity Commission’s success in recovering $9 million in the case of convicted former Baghdad municipal official Zine Saud, whose money had previously been smuggled to Jordan and Lebanon.

Obstacles to efforts

Al-Saadi explained that despite the hard work undertaken by the Commission, represented by the Department of Recovery, several obstacles hinder national efforts to recover funds and those convicted in corruption cases outside of Iraq, noting that there is dissatisfaction among countries harboring wanted persons of various characteristics , for reasons related to their protection. By various means, such as the granting of citizenship or the absence of laws allowing the extradition of those in their country to other countries, as well as the incompleteness of the extradition file, in her view, despite the issuance of court decisions against them by Iraq.

Al-Saadi praised the unconventional efforts made to make the refund process successful by working to implement the recommendations of the Baghdad International Conference, which were launched in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a number of departments of the Commission, adding that the commission has begun to activate the government’s support in political and diplomatic aspects in order to follow the case of the return of money Corruption smuggled from Iraq.

On the other hand, anti-corruption expert Saeed Musa revealed that the recovery and return of looted funds is a painstaking process, which can take many years, apart from the cost of prosecution, as this money enters the economy of the countries of refuge.

He pointed out that “the best practice for the establishment of a fund for the return of looted funds is to direct these returned funds towards public services in sectors that affect the daily life of the public, such as health, municipalities, education and others”.

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18 recommendations

And in September 2021, Iraq hosted, in cooperation with the League of Arab States, the Conference on Stolen Money, which was attended by the Secretary General of the League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and numerous ministers of justice and heads of judicial bodies of Arab states. The conference came out with 18 recommendations, including speeding up the implementation of the provisions of the UN and the Arab anti-corruption convention, which were signed in 2003 and 2010, respectively.

The conference also recommended working on finding non-traditional ways in relation to asset recovery and combating corruption, and using Arab cooperation mechanisms, and explained the importance of building trust between requesting countries and countries receiving requests for asset recovery, considering that building trust is a means strengthening of political will.

He pointed to the importance of “encouraging the conclusion of bilateral agreements between countries, such as agreements on cooperation in the field of asset recovery and the fight against corruption, and calling on the Arab Center to prepare guidance models for these agreements. He also recommended that the work of government teams and those with specialist expertise provided by the United Nations through its specialized recovery offices.” as well as specialized agencies of the United Nations.

The conference affirmed the principle of good faith in the implementation of international legal obligations in the area of ​​the return of looted funds, and what is required in terms of the return of illegally acquired funds and property.

in order to reform

Al-Daraji mentioned several reform steps to recover looted funds and fight corruption, which has permeated various government departments and institutions over the past years, starting with the existence of a national Iraqi government that enforces the law, and the activation of the law, where do you get this from? And give a free hand to the Integrity Commission, provided that it is national and not subject to parties, to open corruption files and enable the judiciary to try the accused.

He also pointed to the importance of activating bilateral international agreements in order to find out from Iraqi politicians the amount of funds owned by capital owners, who contributed to the governance of the Iraqi state after 2003, as well as an agreement with solid international companies that will follow up on the looted funds.

Al-Darraji proposes the existence of a national Iraqi government that represents the will of the people, not the will of corrupt parties, and to start prosecuting and holding accountable the big heads of the corrupt in order to recover the funds they have unjustly looted, while evaluating the performance of officials in the national government on on a professional and objective basis, and the replacement of those who are unable to carry out their missions are compared with others selected on the basis of competence, integrity and concern for the interests of the people, not the interests of regional and international states.

The general secretary of the “Enough is Enough” movement said: “Everyone knows and admits that the problems facing our people and our country are numerous, due to the prevalence of corruption for two decades, and the suffering cannot be alleviated due to the inability of the government to confront the current influential parties that are in power.”

He assessed that “those parties, which we trusted, failed to lead the country since 2003, and Iraq is currently in debt to the international community, its institutions are dilapidated and many people live below the poverty line”.

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