Theft uncovered at US Iraq embassy

4 February 2011
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4 February 2011 | Angeline Albert

A US embassy worker in Iraq has been convicted for stealing nearly a quarter of a million dollars by fooling procurement staff.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) this week found Osama Esam Saleem Ayesh guilty of stealing money intended for the payment of shipping and customs services.

Ayesh was employed by the US embassy in Baghdad as a shipping and customs supervisor overseeing the shipment of embassy workers’ personal property.

He was personally involved in establishing and operating purchase agreements for customs clearance and delivery services to the embassy in Baghdad. Using his state department computer, he created a false email account in the name of an existing Iraqi contractor to communicate with embassy buyers. From November 2008 to June 2010, he submitted false invoices and set up a bank account in his wife’s name that resulted in the US government transferring £150,956 ($243,416) to the account in Jordan.

On 2 February, a jury found Ayesh guilty on two counts of theft of public money and one count of engaging in acts affecting a personal financial interest.

He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years for each theft count and five years in prison for the conflict of interest charge when he is sentenced on 8 April 2011.

The case follows a number of similar cases of fraud that have resulted in sentences in the past month.

On 25 January, a former senior employee of a US military contractor was sentenced to 37 months in prison for paying £223,250 ($360,000) in bribes to US army contracting officials stationed at a US military base in Kuwait.

On 19 January, a US army contracting officer was sentenced to 60 months in jail for accepting bribes for the awarding of army contracts.

On 7 January, a former US army staff sergeant was sentenced to 90 months’ jail time for accepting more than £247,969 ($400,000) in bribes from a government contractor. In exchange, he forged paperwork that enabled the contractor to steal nearly £929,672 ($1.5 million) in fuel from a US base in Afghanistan.

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