Little Green Footballs

Friday, July 15, 2005

Spreading freedom, democracy and kickbacks

LINKSeems the Iraqi Defense Ministry is really getting into the swing of US style military contracts. Wholesale fraud and corruption, the wasting of $300 million dollars and all under the noses (yeah right) of the US appointed supervisors.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry has squandered more than $300 million on faulty and outdated equipment in what appears to be a massive web of corruption that flourished under U.S.-appointed supervisors for a year or longer, U.S. and Iraqi military officials said this week.

Vendors are suspected of vastly overcharging for substandard equipment, including helicopters, machine guns and armored vehicles, and kicking back money to Iraqi Defense Ministry buyers.

The defective equipment has jeopardized the lives of Iraq's security forces and exposed a lack of oversight for one of the country's most crucial rebuilding projects.

Officials of Iraq's recently elected government have fired the main suspects in the scandal, and several former defense overseers are under investigation for possible criminal charges, Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Duleimi said in an interview this week.

"I view corruption as an incubator for terrorism," said al-Duleimi, who took office in May and isn't implicated in the scandal. "If you can't defend against corruption, you can't defend against terrorism."

The suspected fraud slowed the training and equipping of Iraqi forces, whose performance against deadly insurgents is the key gauge for when the U.S. military can begin withdrawing its 135,000 troops from Iraq.

Al-Duleimi said investigators are looking at more than 40 questionable contracts that allegedly sent a huge chunk of the ministry's annual budget into the pockets of senior Iraqi defense officials and their foreign business partners. Investigators are looking at purchases dating back to the June 28, 2004, transfer of sovereignty.

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