Iraq sentences border officials for $17.5 million oil-smuggling scheme

Iraq’s Commission on Integrity announced on Wednesday that the former director-general of the Rabia border crossing between Iraq and Syria has been convicted, along with three of his employees, of misusing $17 million worth of public money as part of an oil-smuggling scheme.
author_image Hiwa Shilani

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s Commission on Integrity announced on Wednesday that the former director-general of the Rabia border crossing between Iraq and Syria has been convicted, along with three of his employees, of misusing $17.5 million worth of public money as part of an oil-smuggling scheme.

A statement released by the commission's Investigation Office stated that the case was transferred to the federal judiciary following a probe that revealed that the accused had been smuggling crude oil derivatives through the border crossing by manipulating check-point documentation.

According to the information provided, the four had smuggled 1,500 tankers full of crude oil through the border crossing into Syria, resulting in the misuse of $17,580,720.

The commission also explained that a department of the Iraqi Criminal Court that specializes in prosecuting corruption convicted the four suspects after reviewing evidence gathered from legal representatives from the Ministry of Interior, a state-owned crude oil distribution company, and the General Authority of Customs, the body that officially brought the legal complaint to the court.

The court handed each seven-year sentences and ordered their financial holdings, both local and abroad, seized as part of a decision authorizing damaged parties to ask for compensation in civil courts after the final sentence is carried out.   

Iraq has one of the world’s largest oil reserves and is the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). However, many of its citizens suffer from extreme poverty and high unemployment rates, which has led to ongoing protests across the country that have resulted in the death of at least 550, tens of thousands wounded, and the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet.

In late December, another commission investigation resulted in a former lawmaker who attempted to sell a parliamentary seat in the previous government being sentenced to five years in prison.

Read More: Former Iraqi lawmaker sentenced to 5 years for election tampering in 2018: Integrity Commission

A Baghdad court sentenced Shadha al-Abousy to five years in prison after a voice recording circulated on social media of the former MP contained her attempts “to sell a seat at the parliament for an amount of money.” 

In the viral voice recording, Abousy can be heard speaking with Wizah Saded, the secretary-general of the Al-Eza national movement. Saded asks Abousy to mediate between a British company to assure him a seat in the May 2018 parliamentary elections in Iraq for $250,000. Abousy allegedly presented herself as a representative of the British political consulting firm “Cambridge Analytica” and attempted to collect USD $350,000 for an additional 5,000 votes in the national election.

Iraq continues to rank high on Transparency International’s list for corruption, fraud, and mismanagement of state institutions, some of the most significant challenges facing the country since the fall of the former regime in 2003.

According to the organization’s 2019 Corruption Index, Iraq ranks 162nd, the 17th most corrupt country out of a total of 180. 

Editing by John J. Catherine