Iraq PM vows to fight customs corruption at border with Iran Jul 12, 2020 0 325 12345 AFPMandili Border Crossing, IraqIraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi launched a new campaign on Saturday against corruption at the country’s borders, saying millions of dollars were being lost by not properly taxing imported goods. Speaking at the Mandili crossing on the border with Iran, Kadhemi said Iraq’s frontier had become “a hotbed for corrupt people”.“This is the beginning of our promise to combat corruption. The first phase is to protect border crossings with new security forces,” he said.“The second is to fight ‘ghosts’ trying to blackmail Iraqis, and the third is to automate the crossing with new technology,” the premier said, standing alongside Border Crossing Commission head Omar al-Waeli. In response to a question by AFP, Kadhemi added: “We encourage businessmen (importing goods) to pay the customs, not the bribes.”“This will serve as a message to all corrupt people.”Iraq imports virtually all of its consumer goods from either its eastern neighbour Iran or its northern neighbour Turkey. But government officials, foreign diplomats and businessmen have long complained that the import process at both borders is complicated and rife with corruption.They accuse customs offices of getting kickbacks from traders in exchange for charging no or low import duties.In June, Finance Minister Ali Allawi said the government would seek to boost its non-oil revenues, including through import duties, to make up for the collapse in state income from falling oil prices. “The ports should give us revenues of seven trillion Iraqi dinar a year. We only get one trillion right now,” he told reporters at the time. “To close that gap, we’ll need a string of reforms to the customs administration,” he said.Mandili was established in 2014 and is currently controlled by a mix of intelligence forces and the Hashed al-Shaabi, a state-sponsored network of groups including many close to Tehran.There was no noticeable activity at the border on Saturday, as all of Iraq’s 32 crossings remain officially closed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Hashed fighters could be seen standing in the blistering midsummer sun. Iraq is ranked one of the top 20 most corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International, with some $450 billion in public funds vanishing into the pockets of shady politicians and businessmen since 2003.Every premier has pledged new measures to fight corruption but few have been able to make a dent in the deep-rooted practices across the public and private sector. Pages 123 RELATED ARTICLES Iran says cannot shut down economy despite worsening virus outbreak Jul 12, 2020 0 262 Erdogan rebuffs criticism over Hagia Sophia conversion to mosque Jul 12, 2020 0 266 Mali PM vows to quickly form an ‘open’ government Jul 12, 2020 0 812 Hospitals in north-west Syria only treating emergencies due to virus DPA Damascus Hospitals in the rebel-controlled stronghold of Idlib in north-western Syria have limited their work to emergency cases after the first infection of the novel coronavirus was recorded in the region, a .. New Tunisia protests over unemployment AFP Tunis Hundreds of Tunisians demonstrated in the south of the country on Saturday against unemployment and the death of a young man they say was killed by soldiers earlier this week. Protesters in the town of Remada .. Two dead, eight rescued in Lagos building collapse Lagos A two-storey residential building under renovation collapsed overnight in Nigeria’s commercial hub Lagos, killing two and injuring eight, the emergency services said on Saturday. Building collapses are .. Burkina Faso ruling party backs President Kabore for re-election Ouagadougou Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore on Saturday won his party’s backing to run for a second term, despite struggling to crush a bloody jihadist insurgency. Simon Compaore, president of the .. Egypt grounds kites for ‘safety’, ‘national security’ AFP Cairo Egyptian police have seized kites from people flying them after a ban by a northern governorate for “safety” reasons and a lawmaker’s warning they posed a “national security threat”. Police seized 369 kites in ..