Iraq issues arrest warrant for ex-trade minister

May 30, 2009 6:05:02 AM PDT
A senior Iraqi lawmaker says the former trade minister wanted on corruption charges has been detained at Baghdad Airport trying to leave the country. The plane carrying Abdul-Falah al-Sudani was ordered back to Baghdad during its flight to Dubai so that an arrest warrant charging him with corruption could be served, said Sabah al-Saedi, the chairman of the parliamentary integrity committee.

The arrest comes in the midst of a government crackdown on corruption. So far hundreds of arrest warrants have been issued since the beginning of the year against officials - including 51 in high-level positions.

Al-Sudani is charged with of mismanaging the ministry by importing expired foods, engaging in illegal contracts and employing relatives, said Judge Rahim al-Ogaili, the head of the Commission on Public Integrity.

Al-Sudani, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party, resigned shortly after appearing before parliament earlier this month to answer allegations of corruption.

The minister's brothers are accused of having skimmed millions of dollars in kickbacks on food imports. One of them is in custody after attempting to flee the country while the other is still at large.

The case became a national spectacle after a video surfaced on YouTube purportedly showing al-Sudani's two brothers drinking and partying with scantily clad women.

The news of the arrest also comes after al-Maliki said earlier this week that he would not defend any official in his party accused of corruption.

He also said he would refer all allegations of corruption to the judiciary for investigation. The statements came during an online question-and-answer session on Iraq's official government media Web site.

Dozens of Iraqi political leaders have been accused of high-level corruption and links to violent groups, with some fleeing the country to neighboring Jordan and Syria, while others have managed to keep the suspicions from turning into formal charges.

In February, Sunni lawmaker Mohammed al-Dayni was charged with being an insurgent ringleader and ordering a wave of attacks that include a 2007 suicide blast in the parliament cafeteria and mortar strikes on Baghdad's Green Zone.

Al-Dayni tried to flee the country on a flight to Jordan, only to have the plane turned back.

He slipped through Iraqi custody, though, after arriving in Baghdad and disappeared. He is believed to be in Syria where he recently appeared on a cooking show.


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