Iraqi lawmaker convicted for corruption as protests rage on

Iraqi lawmaker convicted for corruption after accusing minister of graft
2 min read
17 December, 2019
Lawmaker Mahmoud Mullah Talal has been sentenced to six years in prison for corruption.
Protests have continued in Iraq [Getty]

An Iraqi lawmaker has been sentenced to six years in jail for graft after being caught in a sting operation, in a rare trial in a country that has been submerged by government corruption.

Mahmoud Mullah Talal was arrested in late November as he attempted to bring down the industry minister for allegedly lining his own pocket through government contracts.

Mullah Talal was about to tell the minister that he had "found out that a private group linked to the minister had been winning all the ministry's contracts", a government source told AFP.

But in a deft move, an official close to the targeted minister, Saleh Al-Juburi, said he wanted to make a deal and proposed paying Mullah Talal $250,000 to buy his silence.

What Mullah Talal didn't know was that a team from the anti-fraud committee was on his tail. 

As soon as the deal was done, the anti-corruption squad moved in and opened the trunk of his car to reveal $150,000 in cash - a first installment of the pay-off. 

Mullah Talal was promptly arrested, "caught red-handed", the government source said.

A member of the Al-Hikma party, a minority Shia group, Mullah Talal was "sentenced on Tuesday to six years in prison by a Baghdad court", a legal source told AFP.

Iraq has been rocked by weeks of mass protests, with tens of thousands taking to the streets to demonstrate against government corruption, unemployment and poverty.

Read more: Iraq's government must protect US government from attacks, Washington says

Around 460 people have died and 25,000 have been wounded.

Sentences in corruption cases are rare in Iraq, as officials and businessmen often manage to flee the country before charges can be laid against them.

Two former trade ministers for example have been sentenced in absentia for pocketing millions of dollars in public funds.

According to official figures, oil revenues have raised some $800 billion for public coffers since 2003 - about 90 percent of the country's budget. 

But more than half, some $450 billion, is believed to have disappeared in the hands of corrupt officials and businessmen.

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