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Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) president Massoud Barzani has ordered the arrest of Chra Rafiq, the wife of KRG National Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami in connection with oil industry corruption.
Chra Rafiq—who has dual Iraqi and German citizenship and is reportedly estranged from her husband—is said to be abroad at present, and it is unclear whether the arrest warrant has an international aspect.
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Local media claim that she has not officially been charged with any crime, but speculate that she fled the Kurdistan Region of Iraq after an investigation was launched into her business dealings.
In January, Kurdish authorities reportedly seized US$250 million from Rafiq. The exact nature of the allegations remains unclear, and there are no reports detailing Rafiq’s involvement in the local oil industry, though she has publicly stated that she owns two companies.
On Tuesday, Rafiq publicly denied the allegations, calling them “propaganda”.
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“I am not a corrupt person,” Rafiq told local NRT. “I hope Barzani will listen to what I have to say because he is not aware people want to smear me. I am not in charge of people’s livelihood,” she added. I have been working since my childhood until now to become wealthy and I own two companies.”
As the KRG makes bold moves towards independence from Baghdad, talk of rooting out corruption and making the Kurdish oil sector more transparent has intensified in recent months. There is ongoing criticism of the lack of a national oil company for the KRG and the process of pushing all energy decisions through the Natural Resources Ministry.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com