CNN and The New Arab reports said:
“Of the close to a thousand billion dollars made from oil since 2003, an estimated $150 billion of stolen money has been smuggled out of Iraq,” Salih said in a televised speech.
The statement came as the Iraqi President submitted a draft Corrupt Funds Recovery Act to the Iraqi Parliament.
“The draft law seeks to strengthen the powers of Iraqi nation in order to recover money stolen in corrupt deals, to hold corrupt people accountable and bring them to justice,” according to Salih.
He urged Iraqi lawmakers to discuss and approve the proposed legislation “to help curb this dangerous scourge that has deprived our people of enjoying the wealth of their country for many years.”
Salih said the stolen money would be enough to significantly improve Iraq’s finances.
According to Salih, the legislation would seek to recover the misappropriated funds through the cooperation of other governments and in partnership with international bodies.
“Here I reiterate Iraq’s call, which we have previously issued at the United Nations General Assembly, for the formation of an international coalition to fight corruption along the lines of the international coalition against ISIS,” Salih said.
Salih said the challenge of corruption is no less dangerous than terrorism.
“Terrorism can only be eliminated by draining its sources of funding based on corruption money as a political economy of violent,” Salih added.
Since 2019, hundreds of people have died in violent protests across Iraq against government corruption, unemployment and a lack of basic services, including electricity and clean water, as the country has failed to achieve stability following decades of sanctions and war.
The Biden administration is eying an eventual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq as the country’s security forces grow more capable and the threat of ISIS wanes, the two countries announced in a joint statement in April.
The US currently has some 2,500 troops in Iraq focused on the mission to defeat ISIS as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the global coalition to defeat what remains of the ISIS caliphate that controlled parts of Iraq and Syria.
The troops have now shifted to training and advisory tasks, “thereby allowing the for the redeployment of any remaining forces from Iraq,” the joint US-Iraq statement said.
Salih presented the draft law to parliament to fight corruption, recover stolen funds and hold perpetrators to account, a statement read.
He called “on parliament to adopt this crucial piece of legislation, in order to curb this pervasive practice that has plagued our great nation.”
Transparency International ranks the country 21st from bottom in its Corruption Perceptions Index.
Endemic corruption was one of the drivers of protests that shook Iraq from October 2019 to June 2020.
“Corruption is an impediment to any nation’s economic and social development,” the Iraqi head of state said, whose powers are limited under the constitution.
Salih said violence and terrorism, which have plagued Iraq for years, “are deeply intertwined with the phenomenon of corruption.”
The draft law targets those who have held positions of director general and above in both government and public companies since the establishment of a new regime in 2004.
Under the law, transactions over $500,000 would be scrutinized as well as bank accounts, particularly those that held over $1 million, and contracts or investments obtained through corruption would be cancelled.
But security and politics expert Fadel Abo Ragheef was skeptical the law would be passed.
“It’s certainly one of the best pieces of legislation proposed by the executive branch since 2003. But will it be adopted? I doubt it,” he told AFP.
“The political parties the lawmakers belong to will act to sabotage it, so it doesn’t pass,” he said.
“In public they will support it, but behind the scenes, they will do everything to prevent its adoption, because many of the politicians are involved in this racket.”
An Iraqi banking source said politicians have smuggled $60 billion out of the country.
However, much of that was via Lebanon, a move now likely to their detriment, as the country is mired in a severe economic crisis, and it is almost impossible to get money out of its banks.