10 May 2009

Iraq minister's brother arrested on graft charges

9:35 am on 10 May 2009

The brother of Iraq's trade minister has been arrested on suspicion of corruption, officials say.

Sabah Mohammed al-Sudany, who worked as an aide to his brother, Trade Minister Abdul Falah al-Sudany, was captured on Thursday after he pulled up at a checkpoint in a government car driven by his bodyguards, said a police official in the city of Samawa.

Security and police officials said large amount of cash, along with gold and identity cards were found in the car.

Mr Sudany is one of nine top officials, including the head of the state Grain Board, wanted on embezzlement charges related to the importation of food which was placed in ministry storage in southern Iraq and found to be unfit for consumption.

The Trade Ministry, which includes the Grain Board, denies any wrongdoing and blames the accusations on disgruntled employees.

The affair is embarrassing for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is trying to secure desperately needed foreign investment as he battles an insurgency and vows to fight widespread corruption.

Theft, fraud, kickbacks and other corrupt practices have been a major problem for Iraq in the years since the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

Many Iraqis say corruption has become worse since Saddam was replaced by a nascent democracy that has struggled to rebuild government institutions from scratch and has put few effective controls in place.

Mr Maliki says Iraq needs an anti-corruption campaign to match the fight against insurgents.