Arrest the thieves and embezzlers who are plundering Iraq

Martin Chulov’s report (‘Everybody is corrupt, from top to bottom. Including me’, 19 February) sadly describes all too accurately the state of Iraq today. Post-invasion Iraq has become a kleptocracy on a scale unprecedented in modern history. 

Whole budgets of ministries are siphoned off by a few officials, and funds are then transferred into bank accounts and real-estate assets in a range of countries, including Middle Eastern countries such as the UAE and Jordan (which have benefited to the tune of billions of dollars), as well as a number of western countries. 

Many of the embezzlers are former asylum seekers with western passports, and not a few have British citizenship and are resident in this country. It has been a source of great frustration for Iraqis both within Iraq and abroad who look on helplessly and see these thieves enjoying the fruits of their criminality, living the life of multi-millionaires, when in 2003 most of them survived on state benefits in the countries where they resided. 

The US, the UK and other allied countries have a special responsibility to act against the embezzlers who are roaming the world with their passports and who have suddenly acquired riches they could not possibly have done through lawful means. After all, Saddam’s tyrannical regime was toppled by the US-led coalition with the aim of replacing it with a democracy based on the rule of law. 

What has happened, of course, is something entirely different – and the callously careless attitude of western governments to this has given the impression of western complicity to many (who are already steeped in a culture of conspiracy theories) in Iraq and the Middle East. 

Regrettably, so far, neither the media nor the law-enforcement agencies in the UK or elsewhere have taken any action against these super-robbers, some of whom have been convicted by Iraqi courts in absentia. This irresponsible attitude must change. 

The UK must lead the way in pursuing those embezzlers who are resident in this country and who have acquired sudden riches they could not account for after serving a few years in official posts in Iraq. The most logical initial targets for such action should be those living here and have been convicted by Iraqi courts, but there are many others. 

by Dr Riadh Abed

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