Iraqi Central Bank Fighting Money-Laundering Problem

Article Summary
The Central Bank of Iraq recently launched a new directive to fight the growing money-laundering problem, which some believe may be financing terrorists, writes Nassir al-Hassoun. While some Iraqi deputies are sounding the alarm about the magnitude of the issue, others say that the problem is limited. 

The Central Bank of Iraq has announced the creation of an anti-money laundering directorate to combat this growing phenomenon [money laundering] in the country. The bank announced that it will apply strict measures to curb money laundering.

MP Abdul-Hussein al-Yasiri, a long-time manager at Rafidain Bank, told Al-Hayat that banking laws under Saddam Hussein’s regime were very strict. “But now that Iraq has transitioned to a market economy, the old laws have been revoked. The central bank should have created an anti-money laundering directorate in 2004. Right now, foreign money transfers are unmonitored. Any small office can transfer any amount of money to any country,” he said.

He said that money laundering in Iraq is used to finance terrorists, and that currency counterfeiters, scammers and the drug mafia also benefit from this activity. Yasiri stresses that global organized crime considers Iraq to be among the most suitable countries for its activities. Yasiri accused some private banks and currency traders of smuggling money abroad to benefit various parties. When Yasiri was a manager at Rafidain Bank, he explained, there were “certain international bodies that gave many countries the names of suspects and even companies involved in money laundering. We at Rafidain put those names on a black list. This international cooperation still continues but unfortunately, some Iraqi banks do not partake in this. They only want to make profits.”

Yasiri said that the central bank does not control the financial and banking sector in Iraq. “There are large amounts of money being smuggled to parties whose identities we cannot reveal at this point. But anyone who wants to smuggle money can easily do so. Everyone is doing foreign money transfers,” he said.

Najiba Najib, a Member of the parliamentary Economic Commission, explained that “money laundering crimes are on the rise throughout the country and they are well-organized, so economic security officials are having difficulty exposing them. There are parties that have been trained abroad to professionally carry out these money laundering operations, and they are able to deceive anyone. The weak local expertise that confronts these crooks has not dealt” with this type of international crime. She accused some Iraqi currency traders, who are getting help from some regional countries, of money laundering and trading illegal goods. She said that if these crimes continue, Iraq’s economic collapse will accelerate.

However, Director of Statistics and Research at the Central Bank of Iraq Walid Abdel-Nabi told Al-Hayat that the Central Bank Act of 2004 addressed the money laundering issue and that there are offices that specialize in monitoring the flow of money into Iraq in order to deal with these crimes.

Abdel-Nabi said, “Iraqi banks are coordinating with both the anti-money laundering offices and the Interior Ministry. All money traffic is being monitored, as well as the inflows and outflows of money at various border crossings.” He pointed out that “money flows easily and there are no serious concerns over the smuggling of currency because Iraq has had large financial resources after it adopted an open economy.”

Found in: money laundering, rafidain bank, al-yasiri, iraqi central bank

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