Iraqi lawmaker gets six years for corruption

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An Iraqi lawmaker was Tuesday sentenced to six years jail time for graft after being caught in a sting operation, in a rare trial in a country wracked by government corruption.

Mahmud Mullah Talal was arrested in late November, just as he himself was trying to bring down the industry minister by exposing him for allegedly lining his own pockets via 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.

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.