| 2 March 2024, Saturday |

Iraq confirms, probes theft of $2.5 billion from tax agency

With corruption being pervasive at all levels of government in Iraq, the vanishing of around $2.5 billion from a bank fund of Iraq’s General Tax Authority has emerged as one of the biggest scandals in the country’s recent history.

Many Iraqis believe that the theft, announced on Sunday, proves that corruption has ushered in total disregard for public funds.

Iraqi authorities, for their part, rushed to open an investigation to locate the missing funds. Although they announced a probe, Iraqi authorities did not reveal the identity of the suspects involved in the theft.

State news agency INA reported Saturday that an internal probe by the Finance Ministry found the money had been withdrawn from the agency’s account at a state-owned Rafidain bank.

The ministry has asked the government’s anti-corruption body to investigate, INA said, without naming the officials embroiled in the case.

Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar resigned from his position as Iraq’s acting finance minister after exposing the theft scandal.

Details leaked from the General Tax Authority reveal that the $2.5 billion were withdrawn between September 9, 2021, and August 11, 2022, by five companies who cashed cheques that add up to that amount.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Al-Sudani tweeted that this matter has been made one of the government’s top priorities, adding that he will not allow the Iraqi people’s money to be stolen.

“My government had already discovered this violation based on information and indications pointing to it,” said outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, adding that his administration moved swiftly to open investigations and proceed with needed legal procedures.

“All evidence and documents were handed over to the judiciary months ago. The judiciary, in turn, is moving forward with this case with high professionalism and calmness, away from the language of extortion and misleading populist rhetoric,” explained Kadhimi.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat