BAGHDAD: Iraqi security forces on Monday arrested a businessman allegedly attempting to flee the country after being implicated in the “theft” of $2.5 billion from tax authorities, the interior ministry said.
The alleged theft first came to light in mid-October, sparking widespread anger in the war-ravaged country that has long suffered endemic corruption while sitting on some of the world’s largest oil reserves.
According to a document from the country’s tax authority, the colossal sum of cash was allegedly expropriated between September 2021 and August 2022 through 247 cheques cashed by five enterprises.
The money was subsequently withdrawn from the companies’ accounts, the document showed.
A security unit “arrested Nour Zuhair Jassem at Baghdad International Airport while he was trying to flee the country on a private jet,” Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanemi said in a statement.
The state’s anti-corruption agency described the suspect as “the director general... of a petrol services company”, according to a separate statement.
The judiciary has already heard the statements of several officials from the tax authority on the issue, and has issued arrest warrants for the heads of the other companies implicated in the case.
Corruption is endemic across Iraqi state institutions, with the top echelons of power often evading accountability.