A refinery at the Bai Hassan oil-field, west of Kirkuk in Iraq. Systemic diversion of funds have held back the country's oil industry from reaching its actual potential. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: An estimated $150 billion of stolen oil cash has been smuggled out of Iraq in corrupt deals since the US-led invasion of the nation in 2003, Iraq President Barham Salih said.

“Of the nearly $1,000 billion made from oil since 2003, an estimated $150 billion of stolen money has been smuggled out of Iraq,” Salih said in a speech broadcast on state television. The statement came as the Iraqi President submitted a bill to recover corrupt funds to the Iraqi Parliament.

“The draft law seeks to strengthen the powers of Iraqi nation to recover money stolen in corrupt deals, to hold corrupt people accountable and bring them to justice,” Salih said. He urged Iraqi lawmakers to approve the proposed legislation “to help curb this dangerous scourge that has deprived our people of enjoying the wealth of their country for many years”.

Will need help

Salih said the stolen money would be enough to significantly improve Iraq’s finances. According to Salih, the legislation would seek to recover the misappropriated funds through the cooperation of other governments and in partnership with international bodies.

"I reiterate Iraq’s call, which we have previously issued at the United Nations General Assembly, for the setting up of an international coalition to fight corruption along the lines of the international coalition against Daesh,” Salih said.

Salih said the challenge of corruption is no less dangerous than terrorism.”Terrorism can only be eliminated by draining its sources of funding based on corruption money as a political economy of violent,” Salih added. Since October 2019, Iraq has been rocked by street protests over corruption and poor living conditions.