By Wassim Bassem for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
When the Iraqi Commission of Integrity Court entered a default judgment Oct. 16 against the head of the Karbala Real Estate Registration Directorate, ordering her imprisonment for tampering with citizens' real estate records, it came not as a surprise but rather as a manifestation of a known underlying phenomenon.
This situation has been raising both popular and governmental concern, as it has spread to various regions, such as Babil, south of Baghdad, where a case of corruption was reported at the Real Estate Registration Directorate earlier this year.
In Baghdad, this phenomenon is even more pervasive, according to the parliamentary integrity commission's annual report published March 3; this prompted an investigation into forged property deeds.
Several cases of illegal seizure of real estate properties were reported in Baghdad involving property dealers and employees from governmental bodies involved with real estate registration. Real estate owned by emigrants — especially Christians — has been the main target because of the owners’ long absence from the country.
In some areas of Baghdad where signs of this phenomenon have become noticeable, one is bound to come across houses with walls marked with writing saying things such as “confiscated,” “not for sale or purchase due to problems” and “house claimed by tribes.”
Capt. Ali Bahadeli of the Baghdad anti-corruption police told Al-Monitor, “Most of these incidents are deliberate and intended to force the owners to sell at a very cheap price, especially since they live abroad and it is not possible for them to learn about the details.”