Iraqi governor of oil-rich Basra flees to Iran amid growing corruption scandal
The governor of the Iraqi province of Basra has fled to neighbouring Iran, amid a growing corruption scandal allegedly connected to other high ranking officials.
Majid al-Nasrawi escaped the country with his son on Thursday through the Shalamjah border crossing hours after he stepped down from his position, which he has held since June 2013.
The former governor is facing corruption charges, which also implicate his son, involving contracts for projects to build and improve services in the oil-rich city of Basra.
"Authorities were scared that Nasrawi's arrest would anger his party the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq given the talk of a possible electoral coalition with the prime minister's," a lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The New Arab.
Mazin al-Mazini, a Sadrist parliamentarian, launched a scathing attack on a local talk show against government officials, accusing them of having a hand in the fugitive's escape.
"Nasrawi did not flee, he was smuggled to Iran. His escape came after he was tipped off by his accomplices in both Basra and Baghdad," Mazini said.
"In the coming days, we will see many more Basra officials linked to the corruption charges flee the country," he said.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will soon purge his government of corrupt officials involved in the case, he suggested.
On Saturday, Iraq's independent anti-graft body the Commission of Integrity issued a statement, calling on the foreign minister to seek dialogue with Iran to secure the return of the fugitive governor.
Nasrawi announced his resignation in a public speech on Thursday, hours before he fled the country.
He denies the allegations against him and said they are politically motivated.
The case has brought back memories of former Trade Minister Abdel Falah al-Sudani who attempted to flee to Dubai in 2009 after resigning from his post following similar accusations of graft.
Transparency International, a nonprofit organisation that studies corruption, ranks Iraq as one of the world's most corrupt countries.
Influential Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr has repeatedly called for protests against corruption in the Iraqi government, and his supporters have staged huge protests in Baghdad calling for electoral reform.
Abadi has faced repeated accusations of incompetence and corruption in his Shia-led government.