Jordan may review Chalabi conviction

Jordan is considering a request by Iraq to pardon Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi in a possible deal that would return millions of dollars a court accused him of embezzling in a bank scandal.

    Chalabi was convicted of fraud, embezzlement, breach of trust

    Officials said on Thursday that Jordan's King Abdullah told Iraqi

    President Jalal Talabani, who had raised Chalabi's pardon during a visit to Amman this week, that he was ready to review the conviction made by a military court in absentia in 1992.

    But the monarch, who has the power as the ultimate legal authority to issue a royal pardon, made no commitments beyond that, an official said.
       
    "There are legal and financial aspects that have to be addressed first," another official involved in the case said.

    Political insiders say any settlement must include a retrieval of at least part of missing bank deposits, which Jordanian investigators estimate at $300 million.

    A military court convicted Chalabi of embezzlement, fraud and breach of trust after a bank he ran collapsed in 1989 and shook Jordan's financial system.

    Chalabi, who fled the country as the scandal broke, has denied any wrongdoing and says the charges were politically motivated.
       
    The pardon would lift a sentence of 22 years hard labour against the man who is now one of Iraq's four deputy prime ministers, and who was once one of the most influential figures in Jordan.

    A settlement would help Jordan avoid a long-drawn-out episode because Chalabi had threatened in the past to implicate pillars of the establishment.

    A pardon would also end a blot that has tarnished the ambitious Iraqi politician's image and harmed his political aspirations.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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