Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cowboys, stuffed suitcases, wire transfers and Iraq...

This is not a new story, of course. When the Coalition Provisional Authority (read: the US) plundered Iraq's reserves, dragged it all to Holy Land II and converted it to greenbacks, it then started handing out the reconstruction money as if it were hot cross buns, without almost the slightest consideration for oversight or accounting. Massive surprise (not) that an estimated USD 10 billion went 'missing in action'.

It appears there's now a semblance of follow-up:

Federal investigators looking into corruption involving reconstruction in Iraq say they have opened more than 50 cases during the past six months by scrutinizing large cash transactions made by some of the Americans involved in the $150 billion rebuilding program.

Some of the cases involve people suspected of mailing tens of thousands of dollars to themselves from Iraq. Others stuffed money into duffel bags and suitcases when leaving the country, the investigators said.

In other cases, millions of dollars were moved through wire transfers. Suspects then used cash to buy BMWs, Humvees, jewelry, or to pay off enormous casino debts.

Some suspects also tried to conceal foreign bank accounts, the investigators said. In other cases, they said cash was found stacked in home safes.

There already have been dozens of indictments and convictions for corruption since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But the new cases seem to confirm what investigators have long speculated: that the chaos, weak oversight and wide use of cash payments in the reconstruction program in Iraq allowed many more Americans who took bribes or stole money to get off scot-free.

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