December 9, 2005
The Independent

Britain 'trying to stall $1.3bn theft inquiry that could hurt Allawi's election chances'

by Patrick Cockburn

The British government is trying to stall an investigation into the theft of more than $1.3bn (740m) from the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, senior Iraqi officials say.

The government wants to postpone the investigation to help its favoured candidate Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister, in the election on 15 December. The money disappeared during his administration.

The UK's enthusiasm for Mr Allawi may have led it into promoting a cover-up of how the money was siphoned off and sent abroad. One Iraqi minister believes the investigation will be dropped when the next government is formed.

The scandal is expected to explode with renewed force in the next few weeks. The Independent has learnt of secret tape recordings of a wide-ranging conversation between a Ministry of Defence official and a businessman, naming politicians and officials involved.

"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Ali Allawi, Iraq's Finance Minister, said. . . .

A mystery surrounding the alleged misappropriation of military procurement budget is that it passed unnoticed by American and British officials in Baghdad. This was despite the fact that they were supposedly supervising the build up of a new Iraqi army and police force. . . .


Enver Masud, "New Iraq Constitution a Pretext for Exploitation," The Wisdom Fund, September 16, 2003

Robert Fisk, "How We Denied Democracy to the Middle East," Independent, November 8, 2003

"Fuelling Suspicion: The Coalition and Iraq's Oil Billions," Christian Aid, June 28, 2004

Ed Harriman, "Iraq: Where Has All The Money Gone?," London Review of Books, July 7, 2005

Francis A. Boyle, "Iraq and the Laws of War," International Clearing House, October 14, 2005

Doug Struck, "Iraqi Parties Complain of Vote Irregularities," Washington Post, December 18, 2005

Doug Struck, "Sunnis Allege Fraud, Demand New Iraq Elections," Washington Post, December 20, 2005

[The election marks the final shipwreck of American and British hopes of establishing a pro-Western secular democracy in a united Iraq.

Islamic fundamentalist movements are ever more powerful in both the Sunni and Shia communities. Ghassan Attiyah, an Iraqi commentator, said: "In two and a half years Bush has succeeded in creating two new Talibans in Iraq."--Patrick Cockburn, " Iraq's election result: a divided nation," Independent, December 21, 2005]

[The three blocs include the Unified Iraqi list, headed by the former prime minister Ayad Allawi--Shafika Mattar, "Iraq opposition groups call for new elections to parliament," The Scotsman, December 27, 2005]

Ellen Knickmeyer and Naseer Nouri, "Chalabi Lacks Votes Needed to Win Spot in Iraqi Assembly," Washington Post, December 27, 2005]

Sabrina Tavernise, "UN Observer in Baghdad Calls the Voting Valid," New York Times, December 29, 2005]

[The alliance received 128 seats out of 275, with Kurdish parties gaining 53 and the main Sunni Arab bloc 44.--"Iraqi Shias win election victory," BBC News, January 20, 2006]

"Iraq election results confirmed," BBC News, February 10, 2006

[President George W Bush has made it clear that he does not want Ibrahim al-Jaafari to remain prime minister of Iraq . . . "The Americans are very firm about this," said a senior official." They don't want Jaafari at any price."--Patrick Cockburn, " Americans' call for removal of Iraqi PM threatens rift with Shias," Independent, March 29, 2006

[The Iraqi Prime Minister was apparently only given five minutes' notice of Mr Bush's arrival. The two leaders met in the former palace of Saddam Hussein - now the US embassy - where Mr Maliki had been invited on the pretence he would be taking part in a video-conferenced "joint cabinet meeting" with their American counterparts.--Rupert Cornwell, "Iraqi PM given five minutes' notice of Bush's flying visit," Independent, June 14, 2006]

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