IRAQ’S parliament Speaker, on a visit to Washington, will query American officials about $17 billion in missing oil money, a Baghdad politician said today.
Head of parliament’s anti-graft committee Baha al-Araji said Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, who left for Washington on Tuesday, would bring up the question of the missing billions, which have been under investigation for years.
Last week, US officials acknowledged that $US6.6 billion in Iraqi reconstruction funds had disappeared. Iraq says $US17 billion is missing, and was stolen by corrupt US institutions.
“Nujaifi is visiting the United States to discuss several issues, including the missing funds,” Araji said. “We spoke with the US forces in Iraq (about this issue) but we didn’t receive an answer,” he said, adding that Baghdad had approached the United Nations to help trace the money.
The cash was from the proceeds of Iraqi oil sales after the 2003 US-led invasion. It was placed in the Development Fund for Iraq, but went missing in 2004, when US envoy Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority was governing Iraq.
In a May 11 letter to the UN Security Council, the Iraqi parliament’s anti-graft committee accused US institutions working under the CPA of stealing the money.
“The US institutions (occupation forces) working in Iraq committed a financial crime, stealing the money of the Iraqi people that was allocated for the development of Iraq,” said the letter to the UN. “The sum was $17 billion,” it said.
The UN office in Baghdad did not immediately respond to a query about the letter.
But the US embassy in Baghdad said it was working with the Iraqi government to account for the funds.
“The US and Iraqi governments share a commitment to transparency and accountability with regards to the history of the Development Fund for Iraq,” said embassy spokesman David Ranz.
“Our two governments are working together, and with the Special Inspector-General for Iraq Reconstruction, to account for all of the funds expended from DFI to benefit the Iraqi people.”
Hardline MP Jawad al-Shehaili said: “The issue is not about returning the money.
“It’s about revealing that the US side did nothing for Iraq. It gave from the right hand and stole from the left,” said Shehaili, who is a member of an alliance led by the radical and anti-American Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
(about this issue) but we didn’t receive an answer,” he said, adding that Baghdad had approached the United Nations to help trace the money.