Iraq says more than $60 mn stolen from Mosul after governor sacked

Baghdad (AFP) –


More than $60 million dollars in public funds were embezzled by Mosul officials close to the province's sacked governor in the wake of last month's ferry sinking, Iraqi officials said Monday.

Iraq's anti-corruption Integrity Commission said officials from the Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, had embezzled a total of $64 million in public funds.

They included nearly $40 million set aside to rebuild the city, which was ravaged by three years of Islamic State group rule followed by months of fierce fighting to oust the jihadists.

The money was stolen in the aftermath of a tragic ferry sinking in March that left more than 100 people dead and prompted parliament to unanimously fire governor Nawfel Akoub, who has since gone on the run.

In its Monday statement, the Integrity Commission said officials "close to Akoub" had stolen the funds but did not accuse him personally.

It said 14 officials were detained earlier this month after its probe found that "cheques and wire transfers of public funds had been made out to the personal accounts of senior officials".

Of the missing money, "just six million dollars" were recovered by the government, a commission member told AFP.

Parliament had been investigating accusations of profound corruption among Nineveh officials, and their results came to light amid outrage over the Mother's Day ferry sinking.

Some officials have been arrested but Akoub remains at large, thought to be hiding out in Arbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region.

Graft is endemic across Iraq, which ranks among the world's worst offenders in Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index.

Since 2004, a year after the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, a total of $228 billion has vanished into the pockets of shady politicians and businessmen, according to parliament.