Iraq: Ex-ministers wanted on corruption

Iraqi authorities have issued arrest warrants against two former cabinet ministers as the country's new government cracks down on widespread corruption.

    Former Transport Minister al-Aris (R) is also wanted

    Former Transport Minister Louai Hatim Sultan al-Aris and ex-Labour Minister Laila Abd al-Latif have been accused of separate corruption charges, said Jawad al-Maliki, a senior member of new Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's Dawa Party on Saturday.


    Al-Aris is accused of administrative corruption, while Abd al-Latif is wanted for "financial corruption and brining back to the government members of the former regime," al-Maliki said.


    Cracking down on corruption, which was rampant under Saddam Hussein's government and continues to this day, ranks alongside improving security as a priority of al-Jaafari's government, al-Maliki said.


    "There will be no reconstruction unless these two matters are solved. The success of this government is based on these two matters," he said.


    Al-Aris left Iraq on an unspecified date and his whereabouts are unknown, but Abd al-Latif remains here, said al-Maliki, who gave no further details about the charges.


    Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was known to have brought back members of Saddam's outlawed Baath Party to jobs they lost after his government fell in April 2003.


    Abd al-Latif, a member of Allawi's Iraqi National Accord, could not be reached for comment.


    Lack of accountability

    An official at al-Jaafari's office confirmed arrest warrants had been issued in corruption cases against al-Aris and Abd al-Latif, but refused to provide further details.


    The US has said $100 million
    cannot be accounted for in Iraq

    Ali Faisal, political coordinator for the Shia Political Council, an umbrella group of 38 Shia political parties, said al-Jaafari has prevented police from detaining the ministers.


    He did not elaborate but also said former Defence Minister Hazim Shaalan has been prevented from leaving Iraq. It was unclear why, but Shaalan was embroiled in a controversy earlier this year over the transfer of $500 million to a Lebanon bank to buy weapons.


    "Concerning ministers who left Iraq, they shouldn't have left the country without handing over all the documents they have," al-Maliki said, adding that former interior, health and transportation ministers have fled the country.


    Even US reconstruction efforts have drawn criticism. Last week, US government investigators said US civilian authorities in Iraq could not properly account for nearly $100 million promised for projects in south-central Iraq.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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