Image: Iraqi checkpoint
Ali Jasim  /  Reuters
An Iraqi policeman and soldier look at destroyed vehicles following an aborted attack on a checkpoint in Baghdad Monday. More than 300 people have been killed in Iraq in the past two weeks.
updated 10/11/2005 10:59:58 AM ET 2005-10-11T14:59:58

Iraq has issued arrest warrants against the defense minister and 27 other officials from the U.S.-backed government of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi over the alleged disappearance or misappropriation of $1 billion in military procurement funds, officials said Monday.

Those accused include four other ministers from Allawi’s government, which was replaced by an elected Cabinet led by Shiite parties in April, said Ali al-Lami of Iraq’s Integrity Commission. Many of the officials are believed to have left Iraq, including Hazem Shaalan, the former defense minister who moved to Jordan shortly after the new government was installed.

For months, Iraqi investigators have been looking into allegations that millions of dollars were spent on overpriced deals for shoddy weapons and military hardware, apparently to launder cash, at a time when Iraq was battling a bloody insurgency that still persists.

With strong U.S. backing, Allawi was named head of the first transitional government after the U.S. returned sovereignty to Iraq in June 2004, but his Iraqi List party did poorly in January parliamentary elections that swept the Shiite-Kurdish coalition into power.

Besides Shaalan, warrants were issued against Allawi’s labor, transportation, electricity and housing ministers, as well as 23 former Defense Ministry officials, said al-Lami, who heads Iraq’s De-Baathification Commission, part of the Commission of Public Integrity.

He did not name all the officials, and Shaalan and the ministers could not be reached for comment.

An attempt was under way to strip Shaalan, a member of parliament, of his immunity from prosecution. Parliament met Monday to do so but did not have a quorum.

“The warrant was issued against Shaalan due to the corruption allegations regarding the missing $1 billion in the Iraqi Defense Ministry. As soon as his immunity is lifted, the country where he is now living will be asked to extradite him to Iraq,” al-Lami said, without naming the country.

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