Iraq Central Bank Sues Executives of Private Bank Investigated by OCCRP

Published: 22 March 2023

Baghdad Iraq aerialIraq's capital Baghdad. (Photo: Omar Chatriwala, Flickr, License)

By Lara Dihmis

The Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) has filed several lawsuits against the chairman of the North Bank for Finance and Investment and several of its shareholders, board members and executives for embezzling the equivalent of nearly US$340 million, OCCRP has learnt.

The lawsuits come after the CBI took legal custody over the bank in October of last year and issued multiple warnings that it would take legal action if it did not repay its debts.

Responding to a request for information on the status of the case against the bank from Iraqi Kurdish politician and member of the House of Representatives, Soran Omar Saeed, the CBI said it has issued seven measures against those who had wasted the bank’s money, including the bank’s chairman, eight executives, board members and senior shareholders.

The cases are being reviewed by the investigative court in Baghdad’s Karrada district, which reviews cases referred by the Iraqi Commission on Integrity, according to the CBI’s response, a copy of which was obtained by OCCRP.

North Bank was the subject of an OCCRP investigation in September 2021 after it issued letters of guarantee to four construction companies to rebuild hundreds of schools across the country against weak collateral. Although millions of dollars in public funds were spent on the rebuilding of these schools, few were ever completed.

Iraqi-Kurdish businessman Nozad al-Jaf, the head of one of these four construction companies and also formerly the chairman of North Bank, is among those now being sued over $99 million that remain missing; the exact amount exposed in the OCCRP investigation.

“I will monitor the whole case of this bank until it ends,” Saeed told OCCRP.

“Reforming the banking sector in Iraq is an urgent priority to stem money laundering and its harming of the economy. Unfortunately the presence of many banks in Iraq has inflicted huge damages on the Iraqi investment and development scheme when these banks were supposed to service development and the economy,” he added.