Iraq Gives Amnesty to 2 U.S. Corruption Suspects; Law Stymies USAID Cases

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim McElhatton, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Federal investigators were stymied in two separate probes to uncover corruption involving U.S. aid to Iraq, thanks to an Iraqi amnesty law that allowed the suspects to avoid justice.

The Iraqi suspect in one case was at the center of a bid-rigging scandal tied to more than $750,000 in contracts to supply tents in the country's Anbar province, according to newly released records.

But after investigators obtained a confession, the suspect was released due to an Iraqi amnesty program for those committing non-violent offenses prior to February 27, 2008, according to a 2008 case memo by the office of inspector general for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an independent federal agency that doles out foreign aid.

In the second case, also in 2008, the inspector general for USAID spent about 18 months looking into accusations from a confidential source that a procurement officer for a USAID contractor received kickbacks for awarding subcontracts to two foreign-owned companies.

The investigative reports were among 29 case summaries recently released by USAID's inspector general to The Washington Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Though investigators uncovered evidence that an Iraqi national had fabricated invoices on the U.S.-taxpayer-funded contract for more than $25,000, the suspect wasn't arrested.

Based on the nature of the offense involved in this investigation and consultation with Iraqi judicial and law enforcement authorities, the suspect .. falls under the General Amnesty Law, the USAID inspector general concluded in a case memo

Dona Dinkler, a spokeswoman for the inspector general's office, said Tuesday that it's not a typical outcome for investigations. After an inquiry from The Times last week, she said, officials reviewed their investigative files and these are the only two cases we could uncover in which suspects were able to avoid any criminal sanctions because of the Iraqi amnesty law.

Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, said two cases are still too many.

It's costly to do these kinds of investigations, Ms. Paige said. The agents devote time and resources and at the end of the paper trail, it ends up the person is going to get a pass. It's a waste of money for the investigators and auditors to spin their wheels to track this money in these cases. …