The head of the Security and Defense Committee in the Iraqi parliament, Hakem al-Zamili, has spoken out about the corruption prevailing over Iraq’s border crossings. In a press conference held Oct. 3, he stated that the state was not benefiting from financial revenue that is directly going into the pockets of corrupt officials.
Corruption is robbing the state of potential revenue from the tariff law implemented this year to reduce the deficit in the current budget, which amounted to 24 trillion dinars ($18 billion). The General Customs Authority has announced that it had expected to collect $5 billion this year, but only $306.5 million had been received as of August.
Alaa Matar, a food merchant from Baghdad, told Al-Monitor, “The officials at the border crossings and customs are delaying processing their goods for up to a month to force [merchants] to deal with middlemen to reduce the delay to a week.”
He said, “Border crossing and customs employees work as middlemen between the managers and merchants and get paid 1 million dinars [$766] for each transaction. When it comes to imported goods with high taxes, these middlemen coordinate with the officials to change their category to goods with low taxes in exchange for thousands of dollars that go into the pockets of the customs officials.”
Matar added, “The goods coming from the Kurdistan Regional Government to Baghdad and the southern provinces should be taxed at the main entrance to the capital, but merchants are paying $2,500 to middlemen for each car to evade inspection.”
From 2003 until the end of 2015, the Iraqi government stopped applying the tariff law and merely applied the Iraq reconstruction tax, which amounted to 5% of the value of the goods, under Resolution 38 for 2003 issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority headed by Paul Bremer.
A major conflict erupted in 2015 between the local governments in southern Iraq and the KRG and the central government when the local bodies refused to enforce the law, but Baghdad finally used its power and applied the law and set up customs points around the capital to double-check customs.