Iran-backed Iraq militias 'profiting from hajj visas'
Over half of hajj pilgrimage visas handed out by Saudi authorities to Iraqi politicians, religious leaders and prominent militias have reportedly been sold on the black market.
An official in the Iraqi Hajj and Umrah Commision told The New Arab's Arabic-language service on Friday that more than 1,500 complementary visas have been sold off.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said visas have been sold for up to $4,500 each and warned the sales were providing funding for Iran-backed Iraqi militias known as the Hashed al-Shaabi.
"Around 20 militias were awarded a total of around 500 visas, which have been sold just as many other officials have done," he said.
Mohammad al-Mashhadani, a member of the Popular Movement in Iraq, said that some of the Iran-backed militias have made profits of over $100,000 through the sale of the hajj visas.
According to the report, Riyadh this year gave out 3,000 visas to Iraq's top brass.
Saudi authorities have long granted hajj visas to Muslim politicians and prominent figures around the world.
The hajj, which every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey is obliged to undertake at least once, will be held this year over the period of 19-24 August.
Saudi authorities have said this year they expect as many as two million pilgrims.