The Iraqi parliament's Integrity Committee is preparing to summon Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to hear his testimony about the controversial Russian arms deal. Meanwhile, MP Izzat Shabandar, who is close to al-Maliki, denied reports saying he underwent investigation, stressing that he only “gave the committee a few tips.”
Talal al-Zawbai, a member of the committee, said in a statement to Al-Hayat that “the committee continues to investigate the Russian arms deal since it is a major issue. The committee will hopefully announce its final report next week after hearing testimony of the involved parties.”
He added that “the committee heard testimonies from the outgoing government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh and the presidential adviser Abdul Aziz al-Badri. The parliamentary committee will also summon Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to get his statement regarding reports provided by Dabbagh, Shabandar, and Badri.”
“Summoning the prime minister does not mean he is being accused of involvement in the arms deal. He will only clarify some information. Other officials involved in the deal will be also summoned to complete the investigation and we will announce the relevant findings. It should be noted that the committee has so far completed 35% of the investigation process,” Zawbai said.
On the other hand, MP Shabandar, who is close to al-Maliki, told Al-Hayat “that he was not summoned by the parliament's Integrity and Defense Committee for investigative purposes to give an exclusive interview to determine the general framework of the investigation in light of the information provided by the integrity committee. In other words, I gave the committee some useful tips and was not under investigation.”
“Some parties are seeking to draw attention to the issue of corruption in the case of the arms deal so as to shift the focus away from the bigger issue of corruption in the central bank and blur it by making a fuss about possible corruption in the arms contract that has yet to be concluded,” he added.
Shabandar also said that “reports saying that I accused some officials or declared the names of those involved in this case are unfounded. I made it clear to the committee that I have some information suggesting possible corruption in the arms deal on the part of some people that are seeking to get 10% of the contract’s value in commission. I informed the prime minister of these facts, and he conducted an investigation on this basis, although the deal was suspended. A new deal is to be struck with new standards that cannot be breached by corrupt individuals.”
The media adviser of the prime minister, Ali al-Moussawi, declared in previous statements that al-Maliki cancelled the $4 million Russian deal after suspicions of corruption arose upon his arrival from Moscow. However, while al-Maliki said he intends to renegotiate the deal, Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi denied that it was cancelled and that he is ready to claim responsibility of any suspicion of corruption before the Iraqi people.
Moreover, First Deputy Speaker Qusay al-Suhail, a member of the Sadrist movement, answered questions from journalists on his website regarding the latest statement from Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr urged him to continue the efforts to reveal corruption and pass laws.
“I will not spare efforts to preserve the funds of the state and the citizens, reveal all cases of corruption involving those exploiting public money, in addition to passing laws,” al-Suhail said.
“The recommendation of Muqtada al-Sadr reflects a real diagnosis of the extent of waste and disregard for public money, not to the mention the real needs of citizens,” he added.