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Princesses Street, where the most expensive homes and real estate are in Baghdad (Al-Jazeera Net)
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Baghdad - The lax role and absence of regulatory bodies in Iraq after 2003 turned real estate into a suitable environment for money laundering through the purchase of real estate and agricultural lands; This made real estate in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, a target for those accused of corruption and theft of public money.
Observers attribute the rise in Baghdad real estate prices - by more than 50%, more than the prices of similar ones in neighboring countries - to the existence of money laundering operations, especially after the inclusion of a number of political figures and leaders of some influential parties on the US Treasury sanctions lists, which prompted them to change their investments through Buying real estate instead of smuggling it out of the country.
For several years, Iraq was among the list of high-risk countries in the field of money laundering, but on January 9, 2022, the Iraqi government announced that it had removed the country's name from the European Union's list of high-risk countries in the fields of combating money laundering and terrorist financing.
Globally, according to the International Monetary Fund statistics, the volume of money circulating in money laundering ranges between 950 billion and 1.5 trillion dollars, and Iraq occupies an advanced position among countries where money laundering is rampant.
It was also stated in a report of the Finance Committee in Parliament in 2015 that Iraq is among the 6 most corrupt countries in the world, and that the symbols of this corruption are banks, companies, and personalities who forged documents to smuggle huge sums of money towards several countries.
The process of money laundering or money laundering is defined as the transfer of funds resulting from the practice of illegal activities into funds that have a sound legal appearance. As for its legal definition, it is “accepting deposits or funds derived from an illegal or criminal act and concealing or covering up their source.”
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Slums, narrow roads and crowds in Baghdad (Al-Jazeera Net)
This is happening despite the fact that the Iraqi capital - which has a population of about 9 million people out of more than 41 million who are the total population of Iraq - is mired in chaos, its crowded streets, suffering from deteriorating services, power outages, deteriorating infrastructure, and high poverty rates that exceed 20%.
In addition, Baghdad is ranked among the worst cities in the world in terms of living, as it ranked last in 2019 out of a list of 231 cities, according to the Mercer Quality of Life Index.
Al-Jazeera Net contacted 4 real estate offices in different neighborhoods of Baghdad to find out the impact of money laundering operations on the increase in real estate prices and plots of land in the capital. 3 of them refused to speak for reasons related to the sensitivity of the subject, while only one agreed, on the condition that his name not be mentioned, fearing for his life.
The owner of the office reveals that the demand for real estate purchases in Baghdad in general has increased to about 60% over the past five years due to the entry of money laundering on the line by some merchants and influential political figures.
This demand was evident in some high-end areas in Baghdad, with prices rising 3 or 4 times; For example, the price per commercial meter in the areas of Al-Arsat, Al-Jadriya, and Al-Mansour increased from about 4 thousand dollars to more than 13 thousand dollars, and in some areas it exceeded 16 thousand dollars, and in residential areas prices jumped from 500 dollars to about 4 or 6 thousand dollars and more.
The demand for buying commercial real estate increased mainly more than residential, such as large shops (malls) and huge buildings, and reached its peak during the last three years, especially from bank owners and banks, which was reflected in rents, which rose almost 4 times. Purchases are made through the "shadow of officials" or brokers, as indicated by the owner of the real estate office to Al Jazeera Net.
In 2007, the Iraqi government established the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Office within the structure of the Central Bank, and it was reconstituted in 2015 after the issuance of the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Law No. (39) of 2015.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]Kazem Al-Sayadi saw that the authorities are not serious about combating the phenomenon of high real estate prices (Al-Jazeera Net)
A member of the Integrity Committee in the previous session of the Iraqi Parliament, Kazem Al-Sayyadi, seemed to agree with many regarding the lack of seriousness in combating the phenomenon of high real estate prices, which were called by different names for what he describes as "economies" of partisan and political leaders within the Iraqi state.
What al-Sayadi relies most on in this approach is that it was demanded more than once to stop all sales and purchases in high-end and important areas such as al-Mansur, Karrada, Daoudi, al-Arsat, and others, in addition to submitting a copy of the purchase request to the Integrity Committee to find out the source of those funds, but to no avail. .
He reinforces his opinion further by criticizing the lack of seriousness to combat this phenomenon on the part of previous governments, not even the executive authorities. Such as the Integrity Commission, the Department of Public Inspectors and the Public Prosecution, explaining that "everyone knows that most of the sales were done through money laundering of many politicians."
Al-Sayadi confirmed to Al-Jazeera Net that most political parties include among their ranks many of those involved in this phenomenon.
He specifically referred to the period of the government of former Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi, describing it as a "black, corrupt era," noting that the volume of money laundering carried out by influential Iraqi figures in a neighboring country rose from $18 billion to about $60 billion.
Al-Sayyadi called for the formation of specialized committees to monitor and follow up on the sources of this money and the names and personalities that own it. The volume of money laundering in real estate in the capital is estimated at between 5 to 10 billion dollars, and it may rise to much more than that.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]The permissive environment in the Iraqi market has made real estate a quagmire and a haven for money laundering and laundering (Al-Jazeera Net)
The secrecy and permissive environment prevailing in the free Iraqi market made real estate a quagmire and a haven for money laundering and laundering, and as a result prices rose, and this is supported to a large extent by the economic researcher Salam Sumaisem, "with large amounts of money available to a certain class, which is besieged and cannot take its money outside The country, therefore, is now trading in real estate as a front for investing these funds.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, the economic researcher seems surprised by the rapid movement in the establishment of residential complexes at prices she described as "fabulous", as the price of one apartment with an area of less than 200 meters reaches about half a million dollars. "This phenomenon confirms that whoever established such projects enjoyed exceptions and support." legal, and reveal the amount of money laundered in it.”
In a tweet to him on Twitter, Representative Mustafa Sanad said, "Dirty money networks mixed with clean money; real estate, hotels, shopping malls, banking, etc., and shared that or bought from businessmen who have no knowledge of the source of the money and have no legal guilt. My point of view is not to punish everyone for being poisoned." The blood of money is in the body of the economy, we need a professional surgeon."
It is worth noting that under the regime of the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, it was allowed to own real estate in Baghdad only for those who lived there since the 1957 census at least, as well as their children and grandchildren, and after 2003 anyone could buy real estate in the capital.
Source : Al Jazeera
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