An estimated $150 billion of stolen money has been smuggled out of Iraq in corrupt deals since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraqi President Barham Salih said Sunday.
“Of the close to a thousand billion dollars made from oil since 2003, an estimated $150 billion of stolen money has been smuggled out of Iraq,” Salih said in a televised speech.
The statement came as the Iraqi President submitted a draft Corrupt Funds Recovery Act to the Iraqi Parliament.
“The draft law seeks to strengthen the powers of Iraqi nation in order to recover money stolen in corrupt deals, to hold corrupt people accountable and bring them to justice,” according to Salih.
He urged Iraqi lawmakers to discuss and approve the proposed legislation “to help curb this dangerous scourge that has deprived our people of enjoying the wealth of their country for many years.”
Salih said the stolen money would be enough to significantly improve Iraq’s finances.
According to Salih, the legislation would seek to recover the misappropriated funds through the cooperation of other governments and in partnership with international bodies.
“Here I reiterate Iraq’s call, which we have previously issued at the United Nations General Assembly, for the formation of an international coalition to fight corruption along the lines of the international coalition against ISIS,” Salih said.
Salih said the challenge of corruption is no less dangerous than terrorism.
“Terrorism can only be eliminated by draining its sources of funding based on corruption money as a political economy of violent,” Salih added.
Since 2019, hundreds of people have died in violent protests across Iraq against government corruption, unemployment and a lack of basic services, including electricity and clean water, as the country has failed to achieve stability following decades of sanctions and war.
The Biden administration is eying an eventual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq as the country’s security forces grow more capable and the threat of ISIS wanes, the two countries announced in a joint statement in April.
The US currently has some 2,500 troops in Iraq focused on the mission to defeat ISIS as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the global coalition to defeat what remains of the ISIS caliphate that controlled parts of Iraq and Syria.
The troops have now shifted to training and advisory tasks, “thereby allowing the for the redeployment of any remaining forces from Iraq,” the joint US-Iraq statement said.
CNN’s Aqeel Najim in Baghdad contributed to this report.