Iraq seeks ousted central bank chief's arrest in graft probe

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 19, 2012 7:23 AM
Iraq seeks ousted central bank chief's arrest in graft probe

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi authorities have issued arrest warrants for the former central bank chief and other bank officials after a probe into corruption, a decision likely to fuel investor worries the government is interfering with the bank's autonomy.

The warrants were announced after Iraq's cabinet on Tuesday ousted director Sinan al-Shibibi over parliamentary charges bank officials were abusing dollar sales. An independent integrity watchdog had been investigated the charges.

"The judicial panel of the Integrity Court is investigating the matter," said Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, a spokesman for the Supreme Judiciary Council. "They issued the arrest warrant against Sinan al-Shibibi and other officials in the bank."

The Integrity Court is part of Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council, which supervises the courts and judicial issues.

The central bank said this week it did not object to the investigation. Shibibi's whereabouts were not immediately clear. But the bank chief recently travelled to Tokyo and Europe on business and it was not clear whether he returned to Iraq.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki last year won a court ruling that put the central bank and other independent bodies under cabinet supervision, a move his opponents said would allow the Shi'ite premier to consolidate his power.

Iraq's political system has mired in infighting among Shi'ite, Sunni Muslim and ethnic Kurdish blocks, some of whom accuse Maliki of failing to fulfill power-sharing agreements in the cross-sectarian government.

But corruption is rife in the OPEC nation as its oil industry rebuilds and foreign investors seek to reconstruct its infrastructure after years of war and sanctions even before the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

(Reporting by Aseel Kami; writing by Patrick Markey)