On the planet Iraq.. The government is stealing state money!
Sometimes it can happen that a big or small official violates procedures or overruns public money, and this has happened in some countries, but for billions of state money to be stolen from the tax administration and transferred through an official state bank to a newly established shell company, this is something that happened only on the planet Iraq!
It is true that hundreds of billions have been squandered since 2003, and most of them went into the pockets of corrupt officials and their agents at home and abroad, who are now buying real estate for millions of dollars outside of Iraq, as one of the heroes of the “theft of the century” recognized a few years ago days, but these thefts happened with funds. “Al-Ma’wufah” accepts bribes and kickbacks or practices extortion and interferes with people’s interests by forcing them to pay royalties. However, the recent theft took place through state institutions and according to official books from the Parliament and the Prime Minister’s Office, and through the official state bank and with the knowledge of the central bank.
Figures varied about the size of this theft, which began to be planned in July 2021, and was announced days before the departure of the previous government, and perhaps if that government had remained in power, no one would have known about it. The announced figure is 2.7 billion dollars, but later it was said that five billion dollars were stolen.
But the finance minister in the previous government, Ali Allawi, who resigned two months before the scandal broke out, said in mid-November in an interview for the famous British research institution “Chatham House” that it was 12.5 billion dollars. they were stolen from the funds of the Iraqi tax administration, and what the minister says Finances must be meticulous.
Stolen funds are tax deposits (trusts) that companies operating in Iraq, most of which are foreign, pay to the Tax Administration, as guarantees, and which are later deducted from their tax debts to the state, after the completion of the projects they implement. And these funds, according to current official laws, are not returned to the companies except after an audit by the Office of Financial Supervision, which is the highest accounting body in Iraq.
And since the audit procedures are long and complex, most companies, especially the big ones, don’t ask for these deposits, so the money piled up over the years and reached billions. According to Article 26 of the Law on Financial Operations, the tax deposit funds are returned to the state treasury after five years, if the final accounts of these companies are not submitted to the Tax Administration, that is, if they are not claimed.
However, the head of the finance committee in the previous parliament, Haitham al-Jubouri, a committee supposed to work to protect public money, wrote to the Ministry of Finance requesting that these funds be exempted from the accounting audit carried out by the Supreme Financial Supervision Authority, justifying it by the large number complaints due to late payment, but most likely an effort to facilitate the control of these funds.
Al-Jubouri did not win the last election, but Al-Kazemi did not spare him a high office, as he appointed him adviser on “technical affairs”, which allowed him to monitor the process of transferring the tax deposit. funds to newly founded fictitious companies, one of which is called “Al-Qant”! The thief’s insistence on using religious attributes, even in flagrant robbery, is second to none and seems to be the best method of fraud.
Lawyer Saad Hussein said in an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper on 10/20/2022. that the theft was carried out with the grand plan of the parliamentary Committee for Finance, and its chairman, Haitham Al-Jubouri, with the complicity of the head of the Office for Financial Supervision, and the consent of the Office of the Prime Minister. Namely, the three government legislative, executive and supervisory bodies planned, premeditatedly, to steal state funds, in an organized process that has no parallel in history, and it was not committed even by the most powerful international criminal groups, but by the people’s representatives and the Mujahideen. carried out over a period of several months.
A detailed report by the prestigious British newspaper Guardian, prepared in Baghdad by journalist Simona Foltyn, and published on November 20, 2022. under the title (Theft of the Century: How Two and a Half Billion Dollars of Iraqi State Money Was Stolen) says that the “theft of the century” was carried out with the complicity of Tax Administration officials who have the authority to sign sukuk, and the network of participants in it was named by former tax director Shaker Mahmoud, according to sources in the Ministry of Finance. Based on a letter from the prime minister’s office and a phone call with the Financial Conduct Authority, Mahmoud decided to lift the money transfer controls, according to a document seen by the Guardian. The paper states, based on reliable sources, that employees of the tax administration who protested or criticized the procedure were punished by transfer, noting that a sign near the elevator in the administration building requires employees to provide information about any suspicious actions.
The newspaper attributes the statement of a former member of the parliamentary Finance Committee that the proposal to abolish the fundamental control of withdrawal of funds should have been a “red flag” for the government that promised to fight corruption, and instead, both the Office for Finance Supervision and the Office of the Prime Minister issued the book Revision se can recall, and that was “part of the plan”, a member of the parliamentary finance committee told the newspaper.
Citing leaked documents and interviews she conducted with 12 government officials, bankers and businessmen, who had information about the case but declined to be named for fear of retribution, the paper said: “A theft of this magnitude could were not committed without the knowledge of a large number of institutions, including the Prime Minister’s office, the bank that released the money (Rafidian Bank), the Integrity Commission and the Central Bank. Newspapers attribute the words of a former member of the Parliamentary Finance Committee: “There is an agreement that each party will receive its share of funds. ”
The paper adds that the exploitation of the state has deepened significantly under Al-Kazemi, who was supported by the West, because he promised to fight against armed factions linked to Iran, such as the Badr Organization, and that he lacked a political base and became weak in the face of pressure from the armed forces. wings, which sought to strengthen control over lucrative state positions. And the newspaper quoted an official in the tax department as saying: “The division of positions has become more widespread during the Al-Kazemi era, because it is the only way that allows him to stay in office.”
The newspaper also credits multiple sources as saying that a number of those close to Al-Kazemi had close ties to the businessman who carried out the theft, (Nour Zuhair Jassem, who was arrested and later released on bail), including Raed Jouhi, director of the Prime Minister’s Office. She indicated that intelligence officer Diaa al-Musawi, appointed by Al-Kazemi as director of the National Operations Center, is now on the run after being subpoenaed for other corruption charges unrelated to the heist of the century.
The paper adds, according to seven sources, that Shaker Mahmoud and other perpetrators of theft are supported by the Badr organization, which controls appointments related to taxes and customs, although they must be formally approved by the prime minister. While the Minister of Finance had the authority to sign the appointment order, his authority was limited in terms of selecting employees, and two of his candidates for positions in the ministry could not assume their duties because they received threats from the Badr organization. The paper states that Shaker Mahmoud has been transferred to the Customs Administration, and that a similar project is being implemented there! According to one of the officials, the finance minister cannot remove any employee from his position, “because Badr does not accept it”, and that the minister did not enjoy the support of Al-Kadhimi.
The newspaper also reported that Al-Kazemi’s office denies any responsibility for the theft, and that it attributes full responsibility to the Ministry of Finance, and that “the process started at the Tax Administration and ended at Rafidain Bank, and both fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance!” However, the Minister of Finance sensed the existence of suspicious procedures in Rafidain Bank, so in November 2021 he made a decision that it was illegal to withdraw funds from state banks without his approval, but the withdrawal of funds without the Minister’s knowledge continued, which means that a higher authority than him approved withdrawal of funds, which is why he resigned last August. And when his successor, Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar, ordered an investigation, he clashed with parliament, leading to his removal from office in what observers see as an attempt to obstruct the investigation into the theft.
Allawi made no mention of the “theft of the century” in his lengthy resignation letter, although he was aware of it, as indicated by his decision to prevent withdrawals from banks without his permission. Instead, he theoretically worked out the known problems of the country. He did not respond even in the Prime Minister’s office, accusing his ministry of being responsible for the theft, because the Tax Administration and Rafidain Bank are under his jurisdiction. He also refused to provide any information on the subject, which is really surprising, so why is the Minister of Finance silent, during whose reign the theft took place within the department of his ministry, at a time when it is being talked about in the world of innovative theft, for which said to be $12.5 billion.
If things have reached this level of vileness, contempt for the law, attacks on public funds and contempt for people’s feelings, from a group that came to power in the name of religion and Shiite oppression, and still speaks with unprecedented audacity, about Jihad, God’s law, people in the house and following the instructions of religious authority, what then? Do you see practical solutions to the Iraq problem? Will the new prime minister, Mohamed Shia’a al-Sudani, be able to stop or limit corruption?
The real test for the Sudanese government is not just bringing those responsible for this crime to justice, it is possible and very easy because all the evidence is available and the process is clear to anyone with common sense. The real success lies in the reform of the state structure, so that it is resistant to corruption, leaving most of the tasks that the state failed to perform to the private sector, with the support of the law, and removing incompetent officials who fill the state. institutions, from their positions.
The inflation of the state apparatus and Iraq’s dependence on oil money are the root of the problem. There is still no organized private sector, because the state will remain the primary employer for the majority of the workforce, and this means the continuation and expansion of corruption and the exploitation of state money for political and personal purposes. If al-Sudani is unable to hold the perpetrators of the “theft of the century” accountable, he will make Iraq the “scandal of the century”, and must hold early elections and hand over power to whomever the people choose to run their affairs. He has a rare opportunity to strike hard at the corrupt, and he succeeds in doing so, because all state agencies follow his orders, at least officially. If he does this, he will win politically and increase his strength and popularity, which will enable him to stay in power and improve conditions in the country, as long as it suffers from political futility and outside interference.
A delay in dealing with the corrupt and the armed groups behind them will encourage the people affected by the corruption to oppose the Sudanese government, and if the people do oppose it, the ostracized armed groups supported by the Iranian regime, which is besieged from within and without, will not benefit them, and will experience the fate of his predecessor, Adel Abd. Al-Mahdi, if not a worse fate than him, and I do not wish him this kind of end because he deserves better. The priority must be to serve the interests of the people, who have been waiting for a long time for someone to save them, and not to court the gunmen and their helpers.