Kickbacks for Iraq contracts unveiled

An American businessman has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and money laundering in Iraq and faces 40 years in prison and almost $8 million in fines.

    Bloom's companies won contracts in Hillah and Karbala

    With millions of dollars in Iraqi reconstruction contracts to be had, Philip Bloom offered money, cars, premium airline seats, jewellery, alcohol and even sexual favours from women at his villa in Baghdad, court documents showed on Tuesday.

    For a while, the kickback scheme worked. Bloom, paid more than $2 million in bribes to US officials who directed more than $8.6 million in contracts to companies he controlled.

    But after the inspector-general for reconstruction projects began auditing contracts, his system crumbled.

    Four charged

    Bloom is among four people charged so far in a scheme that also included the theft of $2 million in reconstruction money and the illegal purchase of machine guns and other weapons.

    Robert J Stein, a former contract official for the US-led occupation forces in Iraq, pleaded guilty in February to his role in the scheme.

    Two lieutenant-colonels in the US Army Reserve also have been arrested, while three other officers have been implicated but not charged.

    Bloom, who lived in Romania for many years, has been in custody since his arrest in November upon his return to the United States.

    He pleaded guilty in February and has been co-operating with investigators since. It was not clear why the plea was made public on Tuesday. His lawyers did not immediately comment.

    No expense spared

    Emails that prosecutors included in the court documents show that Bloom directed his employees to spare no expense in satisfying officials who controlled contracts in the Coalition Provisional Authority's South Central region office in Hillah, about 80km south of Baghdad.

    Bloom benefited from an elaborate bid-rigging scheme in which he would submit several bids for companies he controlled and others that did not exist. Some of the bids were high, while others were low.

    Each of the bids were under $500,000 because that was the limit of Stein's authority to award a contract.

    Bloom's companies won contracts for a new police academy for Hillah and renovation of the public library near Karbala.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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