BAGHDAD (Dispatches) – Some $150 billion in oil revenues has been stolen and smuggled out of Iraq since the fall of the former dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, Iraqi President Barham Saleh said, as quoted by media.
“Of the close to a trillion dollars made from oil since 2003, an estimated $150 billion of stolen money has been smuggled out of Iraq,” Saleh stated, as quoted by The New Arab.
Saleh has presented a draft law to parliament that envisages close scrutiny on transactions of sums over $500,000 as well as bank accounts, with a special focus on accounts with $1 million or more in them.
He urged the Iraqi parliament to “adopt this crucial piece of legislation, in order to curb this pervasive practice that has plagued our great nation”.
Saleh’s draft law to the Iraqi parliament meant to fight endemic corruption, an issue which has caused widespread public concerns and protests in the Arab country in recent years.
Iraq has been marred in corruption and violence since forces led by the United States invaded the country 18 years ago.
Washington is finally planning to withdraw its troops from Iraq, according to statement made in April and amid growing anti-U.S. sentiments in a country where many people see the occupation as a main cause of endemic corruption and terrorism.
Saleh said corruption is closely intertwined with terrorism and violence in Iraq as he insisted many militant groups have been funded in recent years through the oil money that has been stolen from Iraq since the U.S. invasion.
In the latest protests, at least two people have been killed and dozens injured after clashes between Iraqi security forces and demonstrators, who took to the streets in the capital Baghdad to demand justice for the killing of activists and journalists.
The demonstrators converged on the iconic Tahrir Square on Tuesday, carrying flags and banners bearing the faces of dozens of activists shot dead in different parts of Iraq in recent months.
Medics and security officials said a number of protesters were injured, when police fired tear gas to disperse them. Five policemen were also hurt by projectiles thrown at them during the skirmishes.
One wounded police officer was seen being lifted into an ambulance for treatment.
Video footage shared on social media showed tear gas, live fire and chaos reminiscent of anti-government protests in October 2019, when protesters were calling for an end to corruption amid anger over chronically high unemployment and poor public services.
Then prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi was forced to resign in the wake of the protests which were said to have been provoked by suspicious elements backed by foreign countries.
Tuesday’s protests were sparked by the killing of civil activist Ihab al-Wazni near his home in the holy city of Karbala on May 9, a day before prominent journalist Ahmed Hassan was also shot in southern Iraq. He remains in a coma after undergoing brain surgery.