x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Iraqi bank changes its leader

Iraqi authorities appoint Hamida al Jaf to replace Hussein al Uzri as head of Trade Bank of Iraq amid an ongoing corruption inquiry.

Hamida al Jaf has been appointed to head the state-run Trade Bank of Iraq, replacing Hussein al Uzri amid a corruption inquiry by Iraqi authorities.

However, an adviser to the bank has condemned the change as politically motivated.

The prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, ordered a judicial inquiry into the bank on Thursday after a committee including officials from Iraq's anti-corruption commission and audit authority reported "financial violations" at the institution.

"The Trade Bank of Iraq is continuing its operational activities as normal and continues to provide services to all its clients, from the public sector, financial institutions and the private sector through its local and international branches," the bank's deputy director general, Abdel Hadi Sadeq Abdel Mahdi, said in an interview yesterday.

"There is an inquiry into all the state institutions by the authorities to curb corruption, which is happening in most of them, but because Trade Bank of Iraq is considered the most strategic for the government, it caused the biggest noise," he added.

Ms al Jaf, the new head, has been a banker for more than 30 years and had headed the state-owned Rafidain Bank.

The move comes as Mr Maliki faces growing discontent over rampant corruption and poor public services in the war-torn country. Protests erupted against his fragile coalition government earlier this year.

A British adviser to the bank's board said the investigation was politically motivated and had come after the bank had resisted government pressure to engage in highly dubious and irregular operations. Sir Claude Hankes, the adviser, said the investigation could damage Iraq's ties with the international banking committee. "TBI is deservedly the example to the world of the future of Iraq. It is the Iraq bank and government institution respected by the Iraq people and the international banking community," Sir Claude said yesterday.

"Any attempt by those in power to destroy TBI's reputation and its ability to function internationally undermines the stability and future of Iraq and its people and can only be classified as the ultimate political corruption," he said.