Very little of the activities of Ahmed al-Maliki, the son of Iraqi premier Nouri al-Maliki, ever comes to light.
Yet allegations abound for the prime minister’s offspring, ranging from stories of a lavish, playboy lifestyle, his commanding of a maximum security prison, and news of his appointment as a “business consultant“at the Iraqi embassy in Washington DC.
With the often opaque world of Iraqi politics leading to little concrete, verifiable evidence, some internet users have been quick to make comparisons between Ahmed (often referred to by Iraqis by his nickname: “Hamoudi”) and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s infamous son, Uday, who until he was killed by U.S. forces in 2003 is said to have been extremely “brutal” and “hedonistic.”
From Damascus to Baghdad
Ahmed spent much of his childhood in Syria, where his father - as a member of the banned Islamic Dawa party - lived in exile away from Saddam’s ruling Baath party region.
Now, in his mid-20’s, with his father firmly in the premiership, Ahmed works in the father’s office as his security chief – having previously worked as the office’s assistant secretary, sources well acquainted with Ahmed al-Maliki’s circle claimed - embedded in Baghdad’s safe haven, its Green Zone, a 10-square kilometer area in the center of Baghdad that houses governmental buildings and several Western embassies.
In addition to his official position, Ahmed is said to run and hold stakes in an array of businesses.
Additionally, having almost total control over the Green Zone enables Maliki’s son to enjoy a monopoly the distribution of gas within the area.
“There’s only one place in the zone where you can get gas capsules,” said the source. “He controls it… these facts are well known in the Green Zone.”
Ahmed’s role as security chief enables him to control exactly who goes in and out of the Green Zone, by controlling the issuing of security badges needed to access the area.
However, his activities in the Green Zone are a sideshow compared to Ahmed’s wider business interests in the county, said a former high-level official, who knew Ahmed personally and had worked with Nouri al-Maliki for eight years.
“Two years ahead, he will lead the corruption not only in the [prime minister’s office],” but in the military, the security, construction and investment, as well as the investment commission.”
“Hamoudi” is also involved in military activities, including heading up a new force operating directly under the premier’s orders – separate from the command of the army or defense minister, the source said.
Keeping a low profile
One major difference between Uday Saddam Hussein and Ahmed Nouri al-Maliki, is the latter’s lack of public profile, which explains why there are not so many videos or confirmed pictures of him available.
This is due to his (Ahmed’s) powerful father’s instructions, according to one source.
“He was barred to go on the media by his father,” said one source, who did not wish to be named.
This media ban extends to any and all outlets who may wish to approach him, the source added.
“A couple of international magazines tried to interview him. They got a rejection.”
This position of silence extends beyond the confines of immediate government control - Ahmed has reportedly used his connections to make millions of dollars by owning stakes in Iraqi media channels, including the Bismaya housing development 10km south of Baghdad private al-Sumaria satellite TV network, which he is a business partner in, the source said.
Feeling that he has to defend his son’s reputation, Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki spoke about the issue in a televised interview on al-Sumaria (which his son is said to hold a stake in).
“I challenge them (accusers) to find something on Ahmed,” the Iraqi PM told his interviewer.
“Ahmed’s only problem is that he is my son,” he added explaining that much of the allegations around Ahmed are due to the fact that he (Ahmed) has decided to go after a number of Iraq’s corrupt businessmen and politicians, who in return are spreading these rumors about him.
The interview on al-Sumaria ended with the interviewer apologizing to the Iraqi PM if his questions “gave him a hard time.”
According to sources, Nouri al-Maliki has dynastic ambitions – giving his son almost unbridled (yet silent) rein in order to “prepare” him to carry on the family’s elevated line.
As well as spending time in Iraq, Ahmed frequently visits Germany and Russia, sources added.
One source willing to go on the record is Majeed Rasheed al-Nuaimi, a Mosul-based political analyst and a former member of the provincial council of Nineveh.
Nuaimi confirmed that Ahmad al-Maliki is the assistant secretary of the premier’s office. “Yes, he works in Nouri al-Maliki’s office…The people closest to him, such as his children, take hold of the important and sensitive positions,” he told Al Arabiya News.
The prime minister allows “Hamoudi” to continue his commercial activities in order to finance his continued stint in power, the high-level source said.
“To maintain power, he [Nouri al-Maliki] needs money. He cannot depend on Iran any more. He wants his own sources of money…Ahmad is one of the ‘right hands’ who can do the dirty things. He is trusting him.”
According to Nuaimi, Ahmed’s relatively high position shows the extent of Iraq’s systemic corruption.
“Corruption in Iraq has become an administered business,” he said.
The Iraq-based analyst said that Maliki’s son controls a massive operation far outside the country’s borders.
“Ahmad al-Maliki controls the biggest financial acquirers in the Middle East, and operates specially in Qatar. Through that, they work with Europe and Eastern Europe.”
However, while wealthy and connected, comparisons between Ahmed and Saddam’s son and probable successor Uday are not accurate, he said.
“He is not to be compared to Uday and Qusay [Saddam’s second, less prolific son], when they used to execute people openly in the streets.”
Instead, the usage of official’s power in post-Saddam Iraq are now “more covert,” he added.
In another difference from Uday, Ahmed’s temperament is said to be somewhat sunnier than Uday’s, who was known for his violent outbursts, unpredictable behavior, and mood swings.
“As a person, he’s a nice guy…friendly, and not offensive,” said the high-level source, who had met with Ahmed numerous times. “But day after day, he is very young, and he looks around, and hundreds of people [show] so much respect to him, like he’s a sultan or a big king, and has that much money and power, with no restrictions.”
A ‘simple and humble man’
However, some observers refute the claims of corruption.
Adnan al-Saraj, a member of the State of Law coalition – of which Nouri al-Maliki leads - told Al Arabiya News that Maliki’s son is the head of a state real estate committee within the prime minister’s office. Saraj said that Ahmad is “in charge of the state real estate within the Green Zone.”
“In fact he is known to be a simple man, not the person described as taking bribes; he is a simple and humble man,” Saraj, who is running in the upcoming elections, as member of Prime Minister Maliki’s coalition.
“He occupies a very small government position and not a big position. But some people when Ahmad al-Maliki’s name is mentioned, they imagine he’s got everything in his hand and this not true,” Saraj added.
“He is a young ambitious man, who likes to work. I do not have a close relationship with him because he is not in our interest in the State of Law coalition. He does not influence us and does not work within the State of Law coalition,” said Saraj.
Al Arabiya News tried numerous times to obtain Ahmed al-Maliki’s comment, but calls to his circle were either ignored or not returned when the nature of the inquiry was revealed.SHOW MORE