Anti-corruption report leaked (Updates: Minister of Trade resigns . . . arrested)

Posted on | May 19, 2009

A recent report by the Commission on Integrity to the anti-corruption committee of the Council of Representatives, leaked to the Western media, set out the size of the problem facing the Iraqi government.

The BBC report is here.

In related news, a group of about 110 Parliamentarians have called for the Minister of Trade, Abdul-Falah al-Sudani, to resign. He appeared before the Council of Representatives on Sunday 17 and Monday 18 May 2009 to answer questions. He acknowledged there had been some cases of corruption in his ministry and admitted “some food items were bad.” The minister’s brother and another official were arrested while seven other officials, including another brother, are still at large.

He is facing a no-confidence vote in parliament in the week beginning Sunday 24 May 2009 over embezzlement and corruption charges – mainly in relation to food imports for the food rationing scheme known as the Public Distribution System (PDS).

“So far we have collected 110 MPs’ signatures for this vote. Corruption in the Trade Ministry is running high, mainly over imported food items unfit for human consumption,” said Sheikh Sabah al-Saidi, chairman of the parliament’s Integrity Committee.

“Billions of dollars have been wasted in this ministry and this has led to citizens receiving bad food items over the past few years and also delays in distribution [of food items] in some places,” al-Saidi said.

A majority of the 275 members of parliament is required to dismiss the trade minister under Article 61(Eighth)(A) of the constitution which states:

The Council of Representatives may withdraw confidence from one of the Ministers by an absolute majority and he shall be considered resigned from the date of the decision of withdrawal of confidence.  A vote of no  confidence in a Minister may not be held except upon his request or on the basis of a request signed by fifty members after the Minister has appeared for questioning before the Council.  The Council shall not issue its decision regarding the request except after at least seven days from the date of its submission.

Update: On 23 May 2009 the New York Times reported that the Minister of Trade, Mr. Sudani, faced with the almost certain prospect of a no-confidence vote in Parliament, has agreed to offer his resignation and that members of the Council of Representatives on 23 May 2009 named as many as a dozen Ministers they intend to question or investigate about allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Update: On 25 May 2009 the New York Times reported that the Minster of Trade had resigned and that Mr. Sudani had in fact submitted his resignation to the prime minister on 14 May, two days before the his appearance before Parliament. But that Prime Minister Maliki had put off accepting it so that Parliament could question Mr. Sudani before he stepped down – according to a statement released by the government on Monday.

Update: On 27 May 2009 the BBC reported that the Commission on Integrity has issued 997 arrest warrants against officials under suspicion of whom 53 were at director-general level or above. The Commission stated that that 51 officials had been arrested in April and 69 were arrested in May, including 33 last Sunday.

Update: On 29 May 2009 Asharq Alawsat published an interesting piece on significance of the dual nationality of Abdul-Falah al-Sudani and other members of the Executive and Legislature.

Update: On 30 May the BBC reported that the now former Minister of Trade, Abdul-Falah al-Sudani, was arrested attempting to leave the country. His flight from Baghdad to the UAE was turned around in mid air and he was arrested at Baghdad International Airport. According to the Washington Post, the arrest warrant accuses Sudani, a 62-year-old dual British-Iraqi national, of stealing public money and mismanaging the ministry by importing expired foods and employing his relatives, including two brothers. Sabah al-Sudani, the former Minister’s brother, was arrested this month in southern Iraq after being caught with $150,000, $50,000 of which he tried to use to bribe a policeman to let him go. The other brother, Majid al-Sudani, remains at large.

Update: On 14 June al-Sabaah reported that the Ministry of Trade has declared that Safa’ El-Deen Al-Safi, State Minister of CoR Affairs, has become Acting Minister of Trade.