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IRAQ: Investigators Expect More Arrests Over Reconstruction Funds

Recent criminal charges for ripping off Iraq reconstruction funds have led to fresh tips from potential whistleblowers.

by James Gordon MeekNew York Daily News
December 8th, 2005

Recent criminal charges for ripping off Iraq reconstruction funds have led to fresh tips from potential whistleblowers, and American investigators promised Wednesday there will be more arrests.

President Bush, in a speech Wednesday, railed against Iraqi corruption, but he didn't mention American corruption that has warranted an average of 50 criminal investigations for more than a year.

So far, about a dozen criminal cases have been referred to federal prosecutors by Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, his spokesman, Jim Mitchell, told the New York Daily News.

Three former U.S. officials so far have been charged with taking kickbacks or bribes or skimming millions meant to rebuild Iraq.

Their arrests last month led to more than a dozen solid tips from whistleblowers, a source said.

"Most Americans are in Iraq at great personal sacrifice, but a few may be seeking ill-gotten personal gains," Mitchell said.

Bowen's team of 15 investigators, including 11 in Iraq, and dozens of auditors and interpreters are trying to trace $9 billion in funds. The cash was flown into Baghdad after the 2003 invasion to run ministries, but few records exist of who got paid with the shrink-wrapped bricks of U.S. currency delivered by the millions on Air Force C-17s every week, sources said.

U.S. advisers - de facto ministers of the occupation government - got duffel bags full of bills from the Coalition Provisional Authority before June 2004.

But scant records exist accounting for how the money was spent, sources said.

Another problem is finding pilfered money because overseas accounts are mostly off-limits to U.S. investigators. If the money is put into U.S. bank accounts or wire transfers, it can be traced.

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