Iraq minister quits amid graft row

Abdel Falah al-Sudani quits amid allegations of corruption within his trade department.

    Sudani, though not irectly accused, has been questioned over allegations of corruption [AFP]

    Bribery claims

    Sabah al-Saedi, the head of the Iraqi parliament's integrity committee, said last week that some of the charges concerned allegations of bribery or corruption related to a food rationing scheme known as the Public Distribution System (PDS).

    "Corruption in the trade ministry is running high, mainly over imported food items unfit for human consumption"

    Sabah al-Saedi,
    Parliamentary integrity committee cheif

    "Corruption in the trade ministry is running high, mainly over imported food items unfit for human consumption," al-Saedi told the IRIN news agency.

    "Billions of dollars have been wasted in this ministry and this has led to citizens receiving bad food items over the past few years and also delays in distribution [of food items] in some places."

    Several trade ministry officials have been charged with corruption, including the minister's two brothers.

    The trade ministry has denied wrongdoing, saying critics or disgruntled former employees were attempting to sully its reputation.

    A no-confidence vote against Sudani was expected in the coming days.

    Gun battle

    Anti-corruption officials, accompanied by Iraqi soldiers, went to the trade ministry's headquarters in Baghdad last month, with arrest warrants relating to corruption charges against nine staff.

    But ministry officials fled after a 15-minute gun battle between the military and the minister's security. Sudani did not appear in public in an official capacity for weeks.

    Mohamed Hannoun, the minister's spokesman, was arrested, Rahim al-Okaili, the head of Iraq's public integrity commission, said.

    Sudani replaced the grain board and foodstuff company chiefs at the start of the month, but allegations of corruption have continued to spread.

    A recent leaked report by Iraq's anti-corruption committee, which investigated more than 10,000 complaints of government corruption, said billions of dollars were being lost because of corruption, with the worst offenders being the ministries of the interior, finance, health, defence and education.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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