A total of $150 billion were stolen from Iraq since the beginning of the US-led invasion in 2003.
Qatar participated in a two-day International Conference for the Recovery of Stolen Funds in Baghdad on Wednesday, along with other members of the Arab League, state news agency [QNA] reported.
The conference was organised by the Iraqi government in cooperation with the Arab League and was attended by its Secretary General Ahmed Abu Al Ghait as well as Qatar’s Justice Minister Masoud bin Mohammed Al Ameri and his Arab counterparts.
According to QNA, the conference focused on fighting corruption and recovering funds that were stolen from Iraq since the 2003 US invasion while highlighting ways to use the looted capital once recovered.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said Baghdad has already restored some money that was stolen from his country over the years, saying that “corruption and terrorism are two sides of the same coin”.
“I call on friendly and brotherly countries to help Iraq recover its funds, and we are open to the utmost degree of cooperation with all countries in this regard,” Al-Kadhimi said in his televised speech during the opening session of the conference.
The PM said his government formed a special anti-corruption committee that has since managed to reveal years of corruption.
“Within one year, the committee uncovered corruption files that had not been revealed for 17 years, and recovered money looted from abroad despite [the committee] being attacked and false accusations aimed at thwarting it and its work,” he said.
Meanwhile Iraq’s Minister of Justice Salar Abdul Sattar said there is a lack in international efforts to ensure the return of stolen funds.
Abdul Sattar also stressed the need to “recover the looted funds through international agreements… and we are determined to recover all of Iraq’s money from abroad”.
On 23 May, Iraqi President Barham Salih said up to $150 billion has been smuggled abroad since the US-led invasion in 2003 in a range of corruption deals.
Head of the Iraqi Finance Committee Haitham Al-Jubouri also noted that money is stolen through fake receipts handed to the Central Bank from influential traders in exchange for millions of dollars.
Salih submitted a draft Corrupt Funds Recovery Act to the Iraqi Parliament in May in efforts “to strengthen the powers of the Iraqi nation in order to recover money stolen in corrupt deals, to hold corrupt people accountable and bring them to justice”.
Iraq ranks among the most corrupt countries in the world according to the Transparency International index. Currently, it ranks 160 out of 180 countries.
Fighting corruption has been among the key demands by millions of Iraqis who flocked to the streets during the 2019 protests. Civilians also demonstrated against unemployment and a lack of basic services.
Iraq has struggled for years since the US invasion, in which the country’s health ministry said at least 151,000 were killed between 2003 and 2006. However, the total number of civilian casualties remains disputed.
According to UNICEF, the conflict has left 4-5 million children orphaned.
A report titled “Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States Post-9/11 Wars,” by the Watson institute showed there were 9.2 million people displaced in Iraq following the war, with displacements rising sharply from 21 million in 2019.
The war-torn country is still reeling from widespread human rights abuses, especially those that were uncovered at the US-run Abu Ghraib prison.
In 2004, photos showing horrifying torture by US forces in Iraq surfaced in the media, in which naked prisoners were shown stacked on top of one another, being attacked by dogs, electrocuted and forced to stand in humiliating positions.