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Cablegate: Pmo Offers Context On Disposition of Corruption

VZCZCXRO1923
OO RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #1211 1091426
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 181426Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6911
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 001211

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL IZ IR
SUBJECT: PMO OFFERS CONTEXT ON DISPOSITION OF CORRUPTION
CASES

1. (SBU) In an April 16 meeting, the DCM introduced
Ambassador Lawrence Benedict to Dr. Tariq Abdallah, Prime
Minister (PM) Maliki's Chief of Staff. Ambassador Benedict
said he looked forward to supporting the GOI in its
anti-corruption efforts, and noted one immediate subject of
concern: Judge Radhi (the former head of Iraq's Commission
on Public Integrity) has alleged that Maliki issued a "secret
order" saying that all anti-corruption cases involving senior
GOI officials needed his approval. These
allegations have been of great concern to the USG and the
Congress.

2. (SBU) Dr. Tariq welcomed Ambassador Benedict and said that
he looked forward to working with him, adding that fighting
corruption remains one of the Prime Minister's highest
priorities. Dr. Tariq explained that no one is above Iraqi
law when it comes to corruption investigations. Anyone
"regardless of rank" can be subject to investigation, and
neither the PM nor anyone else has a legal right to prevent
an investigation.

3. (SBU) Dr. Tariq said the PM's order issued in April of
last year was meant to prevent cases that could/should be
dealt with administratively and those that were frivolous
from being referred to judge/prosecutors. The order applies
to officials of the President,s office, the Council of
Ministers and current and former Ministers.

4. (SBU) Dr. Tariq said that the PM had only invoked this
legal right on two or three occasions. He cited two specific
examples: one involving a complaint against former Minister
of Communications Massoum, and one involving an un-named
minister who had been accused of using his position to send
his relatives to perform the hajj. Without going into
specifics on the first case, Dr. Tariq
suggested the latter accusation was without merit because the
GOI Hajj Commission reserved a certain number of hajj
positions for ministers and their relatives as a matter of
course. In both cases, the PM felt the scope of the alleged
offense did not warrant a full trial.

5. (SBU) Dr. Tariq said it was unfortunate that Judge Radhi
had not also explained to Congress that PM Maliki instituted
a procedure under which if 136B is invoked by a Minister,
that decision automatically triggers a meeting by a review
committee to ensure that the decision was appropriate. The
committee, which is chaired by Dr. Tariq, includes a
representative from COI, as well as an IG from the ministry
involved.

6. (SBU) In conclusion, Dr. Tariq reiterated that Prime
Minister Maliki does not prevent corruption investigations
from going forward, nor does he have the legal power to do
so. The discretionary power to prevent cases against senior
GOI officials from being referred to judge/prosecutors that
is granted under 136B has been granted by law, was intended
to avoid burdening the legal system with frivolous cases, has
seldom been used, and is automatically subject to committee
review.

CROCKER

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