BEIRUT

Regional

Iraq opens central bank corruption probe

BAGHDAD: Anti-corruption investigators have opened an inquiry into Iraq's central bank tied to alleged manipulation of the local currency's value against the U.S. dollar, officials said on Tuesday.

While the head of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee and the government anti-graft watchdog both said no charges had been brought, the former said 30 arrest warrants had been issued, including for the Central Bank of Iraq's (CBI) governor and his deputy.

Neither government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh nor judicial spokesman Abdelsattar Bayraqdar responded to multiple calls by AFP requesting confirmation, however.

"I can confirm that we received the Central Bank dossier from the integrity committee in parliament," said Hassan Aati, spokesman for the Integrity Commission, Iraq's anti-corruption watchdog.

"It is currently under investigation. The investigation has just started."

Baha al-Araji, the chairman of parliament's integrity committee, said the investigation was "not about money, but about procedures that led to the weakening of the dinar against the dollar."

"Nothing has been proven until now," he said, noting: "The investigation is still ongoing."

Araji said 30 arrest warrants had been issued, including for CBI governor Sinan al-Shabibi and his deputy Mudher Saleh. He added the pair had not been subjected to a travel ban.

"I am sure that the governor of the central bank and his deputy will show up in front of the judiciary to defend themselves," Araji said.

Contacted by telephone while in Tokyo for a meeting of the International Monetary Fund, Shabibi told AFP he was unaware of any warrants, adding: "Inshallah (God willing), there will not be arrest warrants."

Iraq's currency has been largely stable against the US dollar, which has been worth around 1,200 dinars per dollar for the past few years.

Concerns have been raised, however, that currency auctions organised by the central bank were being used by neighbouring Iran and Syria to shore up foreign currency reserves, allegations the central bank has denied.

The bank nevertheless tightened its rules on the purchase of US dollars earlier this year.

 
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