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The world's biggest thief?

The world's biggest thief? A warrant has been issued against former Iraqi Interim Defense Minister Hazim Shaalan for defrauding Iraq of over $1 billion. In January, I posted to MeFi about Shaalan's possible involvement in a $300 million fraud scheme and the murder of two American arms merchants. What is more troubling, however, is that the U.S. government may have turned a blind eye to this massive defrauding of the Iraqi people. Prior to his role as Defense Minister, Shaalan ran a real estate agency in Britain and had no prior military qualifications. For this reason, Juan Cole believes it likely that Shaalan was a CIA agent, while Ahmed Chalabi accused Sha'alan of spying for Saddam. Meanwhile, the insurgents accused Shaalan of conspiring with the Bush administration to scrap Iraq's heavy weaponry. What does seem clear is that he apparently tried to buy broken Soviet-era armored vehicles and 28-year-old, second-hand Polish helicopters too old to fly at a premium, while pocketing lucrative kickbacks. Which begs the question -- if the U.S. government really wanted a strong, independent Iraqi military, then why doesn't it give Iraq the heavy arms they'll need to defend themselves?
posted by insomnia_lj on Sep 20, 2005 - 17 comments

Did the Interim Iraqi Defense Minister have these two Americans murdered for $300 million?

Did the Interim Iraqi Defense Minister have these two Americans murdered for $300 million? In the middle of a election that will decide who controls Iraq, Interim Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim Shaalan has announced that Ahmad Chalabi -- a rival candidate -- will be arrested on 13-year-old charges. But why now? Shaalan says Chalabi "wanted to malign the reputation of the defense ministry". How?
1> Shaalan claims Chalabi released documents accusing Shaalan of being a former member of the Mokhaberat, Saddam's intelligence service. (Shaalan claims political fraud, with the intent of silencing his claims against the Iranians.)
2> Chalabi claims that Shaalan flew $300 million in U.S. currency to a shady businessman in Lebanon, bypassing financial controls, the public bidding process, and Iraqi government oversight.
So, how does this tie in with Stoffel and Wemple? Stoffel recently alerted senior U.S. officials that the Iraqi Defense Ministry was involved in a kickback scheme involving a shady businessman in Lebanon and a multimillion-dollar arms deal. Late last year, Stoffel, a prominent Republican donor and arms dealer, met with aides to Sen. Santorum, R-Pa. Santorum wrote Donald Rumsfeld on Stoffel's behalf, asking him to raise the issue with Shaalan. Stoffel was later invited by the Coalition to arbitrate a solution with the Lebanese businessman. After several days, the arbitrator told the businessman to pay Stoffel -- a debt which is still unpaid. Upon leaving the base, Stoffel and Wemple were attacked and killed nearby. A video from a previously unknown terrorist group claimed responsibility, but one expert suggests that the video may be "manufactured". A reporter recently granted an interview with an Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman was forbidden to ask "dangerous" questions about the contract. Stoffel and Wemple are survived by their wives and five children.
posted by insomnia_lj on Jan 22, 2005 - 26 comments

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