ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Baghdad court announced on Thursday that it had launched an immediate investigation into claims of the destruction of seven billion dinars as a result of rainwater in the state-owned Rafidain Bank five years earlier and recently claimed by the Governor of Iraqi's Central Bank, Ali al-‘Alaq.
Summoned in a parliament session held on Monday, 'Alaq stated that rainstorms which hit the nation's capital in 2013 had damaged about seven billion IQDs, equivalent to approximately six million US dollars, that were stored within the bank. There was no obvious explanation for why it has taken five years to make the claims public.
“The Rusafa Court began to investigate the subject of drowning seven billion Iraqi dinars, and [will] take legal action against those who wasted the money of the Central Bank,” Iraqi state-owned television reported on Thursday.
The court’s investigation came one day after influential Shia cleric and winner of May national election, Muqtada al-Sadr, in a tweet called on the Iraqi court to seriously investigate the case and bring to justice those responsible. Other Iraqi politicians made similar public statements and posts.
“This rainwater entered the vault for Rafidain Bank and spoiled paper notes,” 'Alaq said during a parliamentary hearing he had been summoned to face questioning at. “The amount of money was not the previously stated ten billion [IQDs] but seven billion,” referencing comments made by lawmakers in another recent session in which the losses were addressed.
Following ‘Alaq’s appearance in parliament, those on Iraqi social media networks expressed their outrage about the loss of such a large amount of money, many openly doubting the credibility of the governor’s claims, chalking it up instead to the nation's widespread corruption in government institutions.
Others posted pictures or comments mocking the incident, one featuring an altered 10,000 dinar bill with the 11th-century Iraqi academic pictured on it, Hasan Ibn al-Haytham, wearing scuba equipment.
Flooding from rain is a perennial issue in Baghdad and throughout the country. Iraqi cities recently saw multiple instances, made worse by chronically inadequate infrastructure, including inefficient or poorly-maintained sewage systems. In late October, flooding from torrential rainfall submerged streets in the capital, with residents seen in photos up to knee-deep in water.
At the time when government banking officials claim the money was damaged in 2013, the bank did not announce their losses. Water damage was only later reported to have affected various denominations of the Iraqi currency.
“Rafidain Bank requests the replacement of these bills by the Central Bank,” 'Alaq said on Monday, adding that the bank keeps documents to prove the validity of the notes that have been damaged.
He then stated that the Central Bank, in accordance with its instructions and regulations, “replaces spoiled banknotes when exposed to various accidents such as drowning, burning or anything else.”
Editing by John J. Catherine