On Ahmad Chalabi

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Posted by Lilly from ? ( on Monday, May 27, 2002 at 4:50PM :

& now for some background on the man the US is backing, Mr. Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress, a London-based exile group.


Mr. Chalabi has a bit of a chequered past that no one seems interested in any more. So here it is: until 1989, Mr. Chalabi was head of Jordan's second largest commercial bank, Petra Bank. That year, the bank collapsed and Mr. Chalabi fled Jordan after warrants for his arrest were issued, charging him with massive embezzlement. For the next year, Mr. Chalabi was a fugitive from justice, until fate, in the form of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and US-backing afforded him the timely opportunity to escape accountability for his alleged crimes, and reinvent himself as an "opposition leader," with nothing but the welfare of the Iraqi people beating in his heart.

In 1992, Mr. Chalabi, who refused the opportunity to return to Amman and defend himself, was convicted in absentia on 31 charges of embezzlement, theft, misuse of depositor funds and other crimes. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and fined a total of $230 million (as a result of a number of civil and criminal actions) in resititution and damages [see e.g. "Jordan court fines banker $178 million," UPI, January 19, 1995; "Jordan Reels from Another Banking Blow," Financial Times, London, 9/26/89]. No doubt some of Mr. Chalabi's US backers would find fault with the Jordanian regulatory and judicial procedures, but I wonder if these would be the same people who routinely fault countries like Jordan--not to mention Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.--of being insufficiently tough on corruption...you can't have your cake and eat it.

The collapse of Petra Bank is estimated to have cost the Jordanian government nearly $300 million. I find it curious that at just about the point that Mr. Chalabi emerged as a US-backed opposition leader, much reporting on his financial misdeeds seems to trail off. Strange.

Perhaps the Iraqi Liberation Act should more accurately be named The Ahmad Chalabi and Friends Lifestyle Improvement Act.

-taken from a letter to NPR by Ali Abunimah

-- Lilly
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