(Photo credit: Kurdistan Region Presidency)
The president of the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), Nechirvan Barzani, has been linked to a money laundering scheme in the US involving secret investments worth hundreds of millions.
According to an investigation by The American Prospect, the Barzani family, founders of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), have stashed their wealth in secret overseas properties, hiding their involvement behind a complex system of trust funds and intermediaries with the help of a property lawyer who specializes in making assets ‘invisible.’
Last year, the Pandora Papers showed that the US is second only to the Cayman Islands in facilitating illicit financial flows, with each state and territory having its own laws and regulations for financial transactions used in tax evasion or money laundering.
The major leak revealed the names of those hiding money in mansions, yachts, and other property in low-tax sanctuaries worldwide.
But while only one of the US properties has been directly linked to the IKR president, the investigation by The American Prospect identified nearly 300 properties, with a combined worth in the nine-figure range, connected to the president’s relatives and associates.
Among those involved in the scheme are Nabila Barzani, the wife of the Kurdish president, and Salar Hakim, the husband of Nechirvan Barzani’s late aunt.
Members of the Barzani family have previously been linked to a wide range of corruption schemes, including the purchase of UK properties to bribe Iraqi telecommunications regulators, endemic corruption in the IKR oil industry, and even receiving kickbacks from embattled telecom giant Ericsson, which was recently accused of having secret dealings with ISIS.
A confidential cable from the US state department released by Wikileaks revealed that “corruption in Kurdistan follows a patron-client model,” later specifying that corruption in the Kurdistan Regional Government of Erbil “centers more on the Barzani clan.”
But despite Washington having knowledge of the Barzani’s deep-rooted corruption, just last month US President Biden requested over $500 million from the 2023 budget for “the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.”
A significant portion of that sum is earmarked to support the Peshmerga forces of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, part of which are under the command of the Barzani family and the Kurdish Democratic Party.