Iraq sentences former minister in absentia on graft charges

Iraq's judiciary on Thursday (November 29th) sentenced a former trade minister and two other high-ranking officials in absentia to seven years in prison each on charges of corruption, AFP reported.

Investigators at the Integrity Commission said the three officials were found guilty of graft charges linked to rice imports, embezzling up to $14.3 million of public funds.

Its statement cited a decision issued by Baghdad's Special Court for Crimes Against Integrity, saying the court "reached the sufficient threshold of proof, and sentenced each official to seven years in prison".

It also granted banks the authority to freeze their assets.

It did not name those sentenced, but a source at the Commission told AFP they included former minister Malas Abdulkarim al-Kasnazani and two senior trade ministry officials.

Al-Kasnazani briefly served as trade minister in the previous government of Iraqi premier Haider al-Abbadi, but was sacked in December 2015 for failing to show up to work.

At the time, he was widely believed to have fled to Amman after being slapped with an arrest warrant on charges of corruption.

Al-Kasnazani is the second trade minister to be slapped with a jail term for corruption in the past year alone.

Abdel Falah al-Sudani, who served in the post from 2006 to 2009, had also been sentenced in absentia for graft over food imports.

He was extradited from Lebanon last year by Interpol, then handed over to Baghdad and subsequently sentenced to 21 years in prison.

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