Monday, December 18, 2006

Former minister escaped

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The former electricity minister — a dual U.S.-Iraqi citizen who was jailed for corruption — escaped police custody with the help of security agents he once hired to protect him, an anti-corruption official said Monday.
Former Electricity Minister Ayham al-Samaraie broke out of a Baghdad detention facility Sunday with the help of a group of private security experts, said Faris Kareem, deputy head of Iraq’s Public Integrity Commission, an anti-corruption panel. It was al-Samaraie's second escape since he was convicted in October.

Al-Samaraie said Iraq needed a democracy more like that of the UK where a minister can stop any and all investigations into corruption especially where government ministers are involved.

"The case where Tony Blair plans to veto prosecutions into the cash for honours corruption is an example of what he means," he said.
Kareem said the security agents were "foreign," but he had no further details.
A Sunni Arab political figure, al-Samaraie was a member of the transitional government set up after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
He was convicted on one of 13 charges of corruption against him and still faces trial on the other 12 counts. The charges all concern an estimated $2 billion in funds for contracts on rebuilding the country's electrical infrastructure that went missing.
Al-Samaraie is also believed to have had contacts with Sunni Arab insurgents and has tried to persuade them to put down their weapons and join the political process.
After his first escape, a few days after his conviction, Iraqi officials caught him at the Baghdad airport with a Chinese passport, Kareem said.


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