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Iraqi authorities say they will not arrest Chalabi

Iraq's Interior Ministry said on Thursday that it had “no intention” of arresting Ahmad Chalabi in the near future on counterfeiting charges, despite an arrest warrant issued by an Iraqi court.
Ahmad Chalabi, at a meeting at Najaf in May Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Iraqi Interior Ministry said Thursday that it had “no intention” of arresting former Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi in the near future on counterfeiting charges, despite an arrest warrant issued by an Iraqi court.

The announcement came a day after Chalabi returned to Iraq from Iran to face the charges against him and underscored a lack of coordination between Iraq’s Central Criminal Court and law enforcement less than two months after the interim government took power here.

“There was and there is now no intention to carry out any measure in this regard until finalizing the legal measures,” Interior Ministry spokesman Sabah Kadhim said, referring to the arrest warrant.

Kadhim said security forces were busy concentrating on putting down the violence wracking the country.

“We want to look after the interests of the country. These are only subsidiary things between a citizen and a legal body,” he added.

The court on Saturday ordered the arrest of Chalabi on counterfeiting charges and of his nephew Salem Chalabi on murder charges. Salem Chalabi heads the special tribunal in charge of trying ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Judge Zuhair al-Maliky, Iraq’s chief investigating judge who signed the warrants, said Wednesday it was up to the police and the Interior Ministry to arrest Chalabi.

“I’m not responsible for the arrest, it’s for the police to deal with,” al-Maliky said.

A former member of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, Ahmad Chalabi once enjoyed strong U.S. ties. But he had a falling out with the Americans and was left out of Iraq’s interim government.

Chalabi arrived back in Baghdad on Wednesday, said Mithal al-Alusi, of Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress group. Armed men pulled up outside Chalabi’s Baghdad residence Wednesday evening, removing automatic rifles from the cars and taking them inside.

Accused of counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars
The warrant against Ahmad Chalabi accused him of counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars, which were removed from circulation after Saddam’s ouster last year.

Iraqi police backed by U.S. troops found counterfeit money along with old dinars when they raided Chalabi’s Baghdad house in May, al-Maliky said previously. He apparently was mixing counterfeit money with real money and changing it into new dinars on the street, the judge said.

Ahmad Chalabi said he collected the fake currency in his role as chairman of the Governing Council’s finance committee.

The warrant against Salem Chalabi named him as a suspect in the June murder of Haithem Fadhil, director general of the Finance Ministry.

Salem Chalabi has said he never met Fadhil, whom he is accused of threatening over a real estate dispute. It was not immediately known whether he had also returned to the country.

Also Wednesday, an attorney for Ahmad Chalabi in the United States filed a lawsuit on his behalf against the Jordanian government and the Central Bank of Jordan. It stems from Chalabi’s 1992 conviction in absentia of embezzlement, fraud and breach of trust after a bank he ran collapsed with about $300 million in missing deposits.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, accuses the Jordanian government of a conspiracy dating back to 1989 to steal Petra Bank from Chalabi, strip it of assets and then blame the former Iraqi exile for its ruin.