"For you, we'd sacrifice Al-Maliki". It's these words, recorded in a video of the Iraqi Trade Secretary's spokesperson addressing a prostitute, that are causing a racket on the Iraqi Web. Not great timing either; the man in question faces corruption allegations, part of a scandal that has led to the resignation of his boss.
The unfolding saga is worthy of a Hollywood script: corruption, debauchery, death threats, selling off of out-of-date food (ok, maybe not that bit...). The only difference is that the main players are no posse of wheelers and dealers, but Iraq's very own trade minister and his aids.
A member of Maliki's leading Shiite Dawa party, Abdul Falah as-Soudany denies all involvement in the embezzlement and corruption scandal and accuses discontented staff members and political rivals of scheming his demise. His reputation in ruins however, the disgraced minister handed over his resignation to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday.
At the beginning of the month two of the minister's brothers and his spokesman were accused of accepting bribes in exchange for food import contracts. When security forces were sent to the ministry to arrest the suspects, guards at the building fired into the air in order to baffle them - leaving time for the as-Soudany brothers to escape. One of them was later stopped at a roadblock, carrying a large sum of money and several identity cards.
"People in Baghdad are shocked by these images"
Haydar Aloui runs a clothes shop in Baghdad.
The video was filmed by one of the guys at the party on his mobile phone. People in Baghdad are shocked by these images. Everyone's talking about it - in cafés, at work... People aren't happy with the way the country's being managed. Politicians haven't improved the standard of living since Saddam's downfall. Minister as-Soudany hired his brothers to work for the ministry. The local press revealed that one of them, Sabah as-Soudany, was swindling a 40-dollar bribe for every ton of sugar imported into the country.
We hear loads of stories of corruption here. Nothing new there. Corruption took over the country during the embargo [between 1990 and 2003], a time when civil servants' official wages were miniscule. Now, corruption holds sway in every ministry; as-Soudany's not the first to be in such trouble. Before him, former defence minister Hazem ash-Shalaan was accused of the embezzlement of public funds. He lives in London now. Former electricity minister Ayham as-Samirra'i meanwhile fled to the US after being imprisoned for the negligence and dilapidation of public money. And the worst case is that of Assad Hashemi, who was sentenced to death in absentia in 2008 for having ordered the death of the children of Oumma party leader Mithal al-Aloussi."
The video - the last straw
It's one of as-Soudany's brothers which we see here, along with the minister's spokesman Mohammed Hanoun (1:16), flirting with an Iraqi prostitute at a private party. The video, which was posted on the Alhakaek website, begins with Hanoun exclaiming "For you, we'd sacrifice Al-Maliki".