More than 50 corruption cases have been opened in the last six months by U.S. investigators looking into the dealings of Americans involved in the $150 million Iraq reconstruction project.
Some of the cases concern suspects who allegedly mailed tens of thousands of dollars to themselves from Iraq or who stuffed money into duffel bags and suitcases when leaving the country, The New York Times reported. Others are suspected of wiring millions of dollars at a time back home or to foreign accounts in Ghana, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Britain.
Starting last summer, investigators began scrutinizing large cash transactions and were led to cases involving land deals, car purchases, and loan payments and gambling debts. According to the Times:
There have already been dozens of indictments and convictions for corruption since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But the new cases seem to confirm what investigators have long speculated: that the chaos, weak oversight and wide use of cash payments in the reconstruction program in Iraq allowed many more Americans who took bribes or stole money to get off scot-free.
"I've had a continuing sense that there is ongoing fraud that we have not been able to nail down," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who leads the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent oversight agency. "This spate of new cases is evidence that that sense was reasonably well placed."
A similar probe of rebuilding funds for Afghanistan began last month.