Iraq Forms Supreme Commission to Investigate Major Corruption Cases

Published: 18 November 2022

Baghdad IraqIraq has formed a new supreme commission to tackle the ever growing corruption scandals that have robbed the country of billions of taxpayer revenue. (Photo: MohammadHuzam, Wikimedia, License)

By Henry Pope

Iraq’s Federal Commission of Integrity (Nazaha) announced Wednesday the formation of a supreme commission mandated to investigate major and important corruption cases that senior officials have described as a serious threat to the state.

Judge Haidar Hanoun, Nazaha’s president, formally issued a ministerial order to form the ‘Higher Commission for Combating Corruption’, to investigate the most serious corruption cases that have plagued the country’s interests and international image.

Iraq has lost billions to corruption scandals in this year alone; more than that, official figures show no less than US$450 billion has been siphoned from state coffers over the past two decades, according to international media.

Hanoun himself will chair the commission, which will be manned by the directors of the cases to be targeted by the government body as well as the departments charged with recovering the country’s stolen funds.

Last month, for instance, Iraq’s finance ministry discovered that $2.5 billion dollars had been spirited from a government tax commission account, in what amounted to one of the largest corruption scandals in Iraqi history.

The $2.5 billion in taxpayer revenue was illicitly withdrawn by five companies via roughly 250 cheques; it was later discovered that three of the companies had been formed just over a month before the scheme took place.

Ihsan Abdul Jabbar, Iraq’s acting finance minister at the time, was forced to step down soon after the scandal was brought to light.

And in June earlier this year, $700 million in public funds were embezzled from the country’s banking system by its own employees, in what the anti-corruption commission called an “organized sabotage of the national economy.”

Not only did authorities chastise one of the bank branch’s administrations for its “great negligence” in the matter, but they also roped the administration in with the thieves as a “partner in crime” due to suspicions of internal corruption that allowed the theft to occur in the first place.

“We will not allow Iraqis’ money to be robbed,” Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani said in a pledge to confront endemic corruption in the country. Sudani further made it clear that solving such cases will be a top priority for his newly-formed administration which came into power late last month.

Iraq holds the unfortunate honor as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Transparency International’s 2021 corruption index ranked it tied for 157th out of 180 nations, although it did improve on its 160th ranking from the year before.