The New York Times quoted senior security officials as saying there was significant evidence tying those arrested to a wide array of political-corruption charges, including affiliation with Al Awda, or the Return, a descendant of the Baath Party.

The Baath Party, which controlled Iraq for 35 years, was outlawed after the US-led invasion in 2003.

However, hundreds of former members of the party have returned to public life and earlier this year Iraq's presidential council approved a bill allowing  them to return to government jobs. 

A high-ranking interior ministry official reportedly accused those affiliated with al-Awda had paid bribes to other officers and said there could be more arrests.

However, a police officer, who spoke under condition of anonymity said that the official who had been arrested were innocents civil servants with little connection to each other, the newspaper said.

The New York Times said the police officer had suggested that the arrests were politically motivated.   

Violence has dropped significantly over the last year but the country is still struggling with ethnic, religious and political divisions as it prepares for provincial elections next year.