This long read has the potential to be made into a movie thriller. The content of the article – $2.5bn siphoned off a bank account meant to hold tax deposits of oil companies in Iraq, is in itself a matter of intrigue. But the author, Nicolas Pelham, goes one up with his story-telling that the twists and turns will keep the reader glued to the end of the article.
“Oil companies (and other firms operating in Iraq) are obliged to pay tax in advance when they receive a contract. The tax authority keeps these deposits in Account 60032. Firms can claim a rebate if they end up making less profit than expected but the bureaucratic hurdles are extensive. Unclaimed rebates hang around for five years before reverting to the treasury. Over time hundreds of millions of dollars accumulated in Account 60032, where they sat, alluringly. Then in mid-2022 word trickled out that huge amounts of this money were being withdrawn.”
The article talks about a Swedish resident of Iragi origin, Hussein Kanber, brought by the then Iraqi finance minister to investigate the heist. Kanber’s investigation traced the money to companies fronted by a man named Nur Zuheir.
“Zuheir came from Basra, a predominantly Shia province in southern Iraq where much of the country’s oil is produced and exported. A local academic described Zuheir to me as a mukhalas, or fixer: someone who made introductions to the right people to smooth the movement of goods and services. At some point, he moved to Baghdad to deploy these skills on a national level.”
Clearly, Zuheir turns out to be frontman for people far more powerful. Lest the details become spoilers, we shall let you enjoy this gripping read.
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