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17 Feb, 2009 18:49

War fraud in Iraq investigated

It could be one of the biggest frauds in American history. An investigation into the misuse of a considerable part of the $125 billion meant for reconstructing Iraq has been launched by U.S. authorities.

The New York Times and the British Independent newspapers report on an alleged scandal involving senior U.S. military officers.

A report by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests the missing sum may exceed $50 billion, The Independent says.

The paper adds that investigators have returned to the evidence given by a U.S. businessman Dale Stoffel before he was murdered in Iraq in 2004.

He is said to have testified on a network of bribery within the U.S.-run Green zone in Baghdad and on tens of thousands of dollars regularly delivered to U.S. contracting officers in pizza boxes.

Contractors, it's claimed, never started construction projects they were supposed to fulfill.

So far prosecutors have won 35 convictions on cases related to reconstruction in Iraq, The New York Times says.

Yet, most of them involved small-scale bribery and midlevel officials.