Former Iraq PM Al-Kadhimi says corruption cost country $600 billion
Iraq's former Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, claimed on Sunday there were attempts to "demonise and blame" his government for Iraq's failing political system, adding that corruption cost the country $600 billion before he took office.
Al-Kadhimi defended his government against accusations of corruption, saying that he only had a budget for five months during his 29 months in office.
The former Iraqi head of government, who was in office from May 2020 until October 2022, said government funds were instead funneled "to benefit individuals, party and military entities, and regional roles".
"Corruption was entrenched in the Iraqi state before I came," he said, adding: "Yes, between 2003 and mid-2020, corruption devoured 600 billion dollars of Iraqi money."
The funds siphoned off were used to build a "deep state" and to invest in "fraudulent projects".
"I have the accounts of the previous governments, what they spent, and what amounts disappeared. Some of the facts in this regard are terrifying and shocking," he said.
"Money was going to parties, and these parties invested it in establishing a military situation for armed groups in Iraq and outside Iraq."
"During my government, there was no possibility for any dollar to go to finance groups outside the state.
"My position was strong on this issue, and they know it and keep silent about it, and for this, they harbour hostility towards me."
Al-Kadhimi, a former intelligence chief with strong links to the US, was a controversial figure in Iraqi politics which saw him face the enmity of Iran-linked groups in particular.
"Unfortunately, there are those who want to clean up their bad history in governance, and for this, they blame Al-Kadhimi's government, which has no party, militia, or parliamentary bloc," he said.
Iraq, an oil-rich country, has been ravaged by endemic graft and its political elite routinely evade accountability in corruption cases.
The UN envoy to Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, said earlier this year that "pervasive and systemic corruption is one of the biggest challenges" facing the country.
"It undermines progress, deprives citizens of their rights, discourages international investment and robs the state of the resources needed to deliver to its people better schools, hospitals, roads, and countless other public services," he said.
In October, Iraq was rocked by revelations that $2.5 billion in public funds were stolen from a government account.
Iraq ranks near the bottom of Transparency International's corruption perceptions index, at 157 out of 180 countries.