CORRECTED, Feb. 20, 2016 — Baghdad | Reuters — Iraq’s acting trade minister has referred former grain board chief Saad al-Hamdani and 16 unnamed individuals for investigation over suspected transportation of illegal wheat shipments, a ministry statement said Monday.
The grain board is responsible for purchasing billions of dollars worth of commodities internationally and from Iraqi farmers to be used in the nationwide ration program, making it one of the world’s biggest importers of wheat and rice.
A ministry investigation disclosed that Hamdani, the silo manager of Khan Dhari in western Baghdad, and 15 other employees were implicated in “forging transportation documents” for wheat cargoes, the statement said.
The move comes three months after acting Trade Minister Mohammed al-Sudani sacked the head of the grain board and six other officials over graft allegations.
“Investigations into other silos in Baghdad, Basra and Samawa are ongoing,” the statement added.
Several trade ministry officials have faced corruption allegations in the past, and four ministry security guards were arrested for killing a ministry media adviser in September with a bomb. They are awaiting trial.
Reforming the ministry is a key test for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has promised to tackle corruption in a political system which doles out positions along ethnic and sectarian lines, creating powerful patronage networks.
— Reporting for Reuters by Ahmed Rasheed.
CORRECTION from Reuters, Feb. 20, 2016: A spokesman for Iraq’s grain board has clarified that the former, not current, chief is to be investigated in the case in question.