Saturday, January 27, 2018

Iraq’s Former Trade Minister To Finally Face Prison Time For Corruption


Former Trade Minister Abdul Falah al-Sudani will finally go to prison three years after he was sentenced for corruption. The Lebanese government cooperated with Baghdad to extradited Sudani back to Iraq. He was arrested there in September 2017, after fleeing Iraq a few years beforehand.  

Sudani originally ran afoul of the law in 2008. In September, several high-ranking officials at the Trade Ministry including three director generals were dismissed for graft after complaints by the anti-corruption integrity committee in parliament. They wanted Sudani to resign as well, but he did not. In May 2009, the minister was brought up on charges along with two of his brothers and a nephew who worked at the ministry as well. They were accused of buying $8 million in expired food, which was discovered in Muthanna. Thanks to interference by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Dawa Party, which Sudani belonged to, he was acquitted for lack of evidence in April 2010. The next year, Sudani received a second warrant, and again Dawa got him off the hook by pressuring a judge. It wasn’t until 2015 that he was finally found guilty. By that time however, the minister had resigned and was living abroad, which was probably why he was found guilty. While he was a member of the government, he had the protection of his party. When he’d left the country, the conviction was meaningless as he would never go to prison. That finally changed three years later when he was sent back to Iraq by the government in Beirut.

Prime Minister Haidar Abadi has said that the next war in Iraq will be against corruption. While Sudani’s return to Iraq is noteworthy it doesn't mark any real sea change in this struggle. The effort to get Sudani to face justice started ten years ago. It took seven years and three trials just to convict him, and he wasn’t even in office nor in Iraq by then. Until a standing minister from one of the powerful Shiite parties is indicted, found guilty and imprisoned the fight against corruption will remain focused upon those officials that do not have the protection of the ruling elite or old ones from former governments.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Interpol returns ex-minister wanted for corruption to Iraq,” 1/25/18

Karim, Ammar, “Iraq faces ‘new war’ – on corruption,” Agence France Presse, 12/29/17

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