Investigators looking into corruption involving reconstruction in Iraq say they have opened more than 50 new cases in six months by scrutinizing large cash transactions — involving banks, land deals, loan payments, casinos and even plastic surgery — made by some of the Americans involved in the nearly $150 billion program.
Some of the cases involve people who are suspected of having mailed tens of thousands of dollars to themselves from Iraq, or of having stuffed the money into duffel bags and suitcases when leaving the country, the federal investigators said. In other cases, millions of dollars were moved through wire transfers. Suspects then used cash to buy BMWs, Humvees and expensive jewelry, or to pay off enormous casino debts.
Some suspects also tried to conceal foreign bank accounts in Ghana, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Britain, the investigators said, while in other cases, cash was simply found stacked in home safes.
There have already been dozens of indictments and convictions for corruption since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But the new cases seem to confirm what investigators have long speculated: that the chaos, weak oversight and wide use of cash payments in the reconstruction program in Iraq allowed many more Americans who took bribes or stole money to get off scot-free.
“I’ve had a continuing sense that there is ongoing fraud that we have not been able to nail down,” said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who leads the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent oversight agency. “This spate of new cases is evidence that that sense was reasonably well placed.”...
Thanks, Master Yoda, for that amazing insight. No doubt a product of your highly-attuned Jedi senses. I don't think anyone else would have ever suspected that contractors might have been out to completely fraud the government.
Since Iraq’s economy collapsed after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the country’s dealings with foreign companies and contractors have been laced with bribery, kickbacks and other fraud, Mr. White said, adding that weak oversight of the reconstruction efforts almost guaranteed that those problems would not be rooted out.
“That’s been very disappointing, and we’ve seen it in Afghanistan as well,” Mr. White said...
A senior federal official said that some of the new cases appeared to be closely linked to known networks of conspiracy and fraud and were likely to extend investigators’ knowledge of cases that had already ended with convictions. Many other cases seem to be entirely new, the official said.
Mr. Bowen said that many of the new cases involved bribes and kickbacks for awarding lucrative work to contractors, and that in a number of cases, spouses or other relatives of the suspects are accused of setting up fraudulent companies to hide the illicit gains.
I'd be looking for a new job if it weren't for the fact that the justice system is finally catching up with some of these crooks...