ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi court specializing in fighting corruption on Sunday announced they had sentenced a former senior official from the Ministry of Defense to six years in prison on embezzlement charges.
In 2005, the Iraqi Integrity Commission accused former Deputy Defense Minister Ziyad al-Cattan, who holds a dual Iraqi and Polish citizenship, of misappropriating millions of dollars and fleeing to Jordan.
Authorities in Jordan arrested him in 2017 at the Queen Alia International Airport while he attempted to enter the country from Poland. Cattan was later handed over to Baghdad through Interpol.
The Criminal Court of Integrity in Baghdad considered multiple dealings of which Cattan was a part, convicting him “of irregularities in contracts with companies [dealing with the] Ministry of Defense while in office,” Supreme Judicial Council spokesperson Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar said in a statement.
An entrepreneur and holder of a doctorate in economics, Cattan lived in Poland for 27 years and only returned to Iraq shortly before the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
In the interim government led by Ayad Allawi, and between mid-2004 to early-2005, he held important positions including Chief of the Department of Procurement, given to him by then-Defense Minister Hazim al-Shaalan. During that short period, he allegedly went on a spending spree purchasing arms and signing contracts in Pakistan and Poland, supplying the Iraqi security forces with low-grade weaponry and equipment.
Speaking with The Independent in 2005, Ali Allawi, Iraqi Finance Minister, described the swaths of embezzlement cases, of which Cattan’s was a part, as the disappearance of “huge amounts of money” and “possibly one of the largest thefts in history.”
According to Birqdar, the court issued three sentences of “severe imprisonment” for two years in succession. The statement said the verdicts were rendered via Article 340 of the Penal Code, which concerns government official’s misuse of public property, including funds.
The irregularities in transactions included three contracts with companies which were expected to provide the ministry with light equipment as well as another contract for military equipment, he added.
One of the contracts included an infraction in the spending of nearly eight million dollars to guarantee the creation of a temporary military encampment for the Rapid Response Team of Fallujah, a city in Iraq’s Anbar province.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany