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Iraq Urges U.S., UK to Extradite Officials Involved in ‘Heist of the Century’

Interpol red notices have been issued for members of former Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s cabinet who hold US and UK citizenship

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Iraq is urging the US and UK to hand over former Iraqi officials accused of stealing $2.5 billion in public funds in what is known as the “heist of the century,” the head of Iraq’s Integrity Commission said on August 6.

Commission head Haider Hanoun said that Interpol has issued “red notices” for former prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s private secretary and cabinet director, Ahmed Najati and Raed Jouhi, who both hold US citizenship, as well as for Kadhimi’s former finance minister, Ali Allawi, who holds British citizenship.

An Interpol red notice is not an international arrest warrant but asks authorities worldwide to detain people pending possible extradition or other legal actions provisionally.

The accused men are believed to be living abroad, and Hanoun called on the US and UK to “arrest them and return them to Iraq” while saying, “The issue of theft from the tax secretariats will not die.”

Hanoun said the issue of the theft of tax deposits is “the largest corruption case discovered to date,” considering it “a crime of corruption mixed with treason.”

Hanoun confirmed the commission was in the final stages of detaining additional former Iraqi officials accused of participation in stealing tax funds, including the former director of the Commercial Bank of Iraq, Hamdiya al-Jaf, former director general in the Ministry of Health, Nawras Abdel Razzaq, and former director of the municipality of Hilla, Mohammad Hadi.

On 3 August, businessman Ahmad al-Sarraf, a main suspect in the theft, was taken into custody by Iraqi officials after being extradited from Jordan.

The scandal revolves around illegal cash withdrawals from the country’s tax commission between 2021 and 2022 when Kadhimi served as prime minister.

According to a statement by the Integrity Commission, some $2.5 billion was withdrawn from the state-owned Rafidain Bank via 260 cheques. The funds were distributed among seven private companies.

Five of these companies were newly established and lacked any tax records. The other two were reportedly purchased by Sarraf “for the purposes of completing the theft.”

“None of the companies had legal authorization from the actual owners of the deposits to withdraw those deposits, despite their claim to do so,” the commission said.

These deposits, which were paid in advance by companies against future tax liabilities, were controlled by the Federal Board of Supreme Audit (FBSA). However, a few weeks before the embezzlement scheme began, a change was made to allow money to be taken out without the permission of the FBSA.

Original article: thecradle.co

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