Iraq's former finance minister alleged in a US television report that up to US$800 million meant to equip the Iraqi army had been stolen from the government by former officials through fraudulent deals.
The former minister, Ali Allawi, told CBS' 60 Minutes that US$1.2 billion had been allocated from the Iraqi treasury to the defense ministry to buy new weapons. About US$400 million was spent on outdated equipment, while the rest of the money was simply stolen, he said in the interview that was aired on Sunday.
Allawi said the arms fraud is "one of the biggest thefts in history" and that corrupt former Iraqi officials are now "running around the world hiding and scurrying around."
He did not name the officials who allegedly stole the money during the CBS report. But Iraqi investigators are probing several weapons and equipment deals engineered by former procurement officer Ziad Cattan and other officials including former defense minister Hazim Shaalan.
Most of the fraudulent arms purchases were allegedly made during the term of former interim prime minster Ayad Allawi, who took office after occupation authorities turned over sovereignty to Iraqis on June 28, 2004. When Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi took office in May last year, an investigation was opened into several alleged cases of corruption.
Ayad Allawi and Ali Allawi are cousins.