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Iraq corruption scandal: How does an Interpol Red Notice work?

Tariq Tahir

8 Aug 2023

Baghdad wants former officials accused of corruption to be extradited

Interpol’s Red Notice system has once again come into the spotlight after Iraq asked the US and the UK to extradite four former officials accused of corruption.

Haider Hanoun, the head of the Iraqi Commission for Integrity, said the country's judiciary has asked Interpol to generate a Red Notice against a former finance minister and staff members of former prime minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, who now all live outside the country.

Mr Al Kadhimi's former cabinet director Raed Jouhi and personal secretary Ahmed Najati both hold American citizenship, former finance minister Ali Allawi holds British citizenship, and Mushrik Abbas, who was a media adviser, lives in the UAE.

Interpol has not confirmed the notices, though Mr Hanoun previously said that they had already been issued.

What is an Interpol Red Notice?An Interpol Red Notice asks police forces and other law enforcement bodies worldwide to provisionally detain people pending possible extradition or other legal actions.

Red Notices are uploaded to a central database accessible to police in 195 countries.

They serve as a digital wanted poster that ensures fugitives are not able to cross borders to evade justice.

Is a Red Notice an arrest warrant? A Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant and Interpol itself does not enforce them. That is instead left to law enforcement in member countries.

Who is subject to Red Notices? Some of the world’s most dangerous wanted criminals are the subject of Red Notices. They include those accused of murder, gang activity, sexual offences and drug smuggling.

But others who have found themselves the subject of Red Notices include people accused of relatively minor offences such as non-payment of debts.

Has a Red Notice been issued in relation to the four accused by Iraq of corruption?

Initial reports appeared to confuse the international arrest warrant with the Red Notice system.

Mr Hanoun was reported as saying that Red Notices had been issued and he called on the UK and the US to carry out the arrest warrants.

But he later clarified his comments and said was still seeking the issuance of Red Notices with Interpol.

What successes have Red Notices achieved? One of the UK's most wanted fugitives, Nana Oppong, 42, a suspect in a drive-by murder, was detained in Morocco on a Red Notice when allegedly trying to enter the country using a fake passport earlier this year.

Terraform Labs co-founder and chief executive Do Kwon, who had been the subject of a Red Notice since he went on the run after his $40 cryptocurrency empire collapsed, was arrested in Montenegro as he tried to leave the country.

Two men wanted in the UAE for alleged involvement in human trafficking and money laundering were detained in Sudan on a Red Notice

Are there concerns about the system being abused? Fears have been raised that Red Notices are being used by certain regimes to attack and harass opponents overseas.

Bill Browder, a US-born British citizen who campaigned against corruption in Russia after one of his employees died in police custody, has been the subject of several Red Notices issued at the behest of the Kremlin.

China has also been accused of using Red Notices to pursue political opponents, including from the country’s Uighur minority.

Brian Glendinning, a British oil worker, was jailed in Iraq alongside terrorists because of an Interpol Red Notice issued by Qatar five years ago over a bank debt he owed in the country.

Alicia Kearns, the chairman of the UK's House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, accused the international crime-fighting body of failing in its duty to stop the notices being used as “a tool of transnational repression”.

“There’s no question that within the British Parliament we have grave concerns that Interpol is being abused,” Ms Kearns told the Sky News Dirty Work podcast.

“Whether it be for ideological reasons, whether it be for personal interests of important individuals within certain countries, whether it be to silence voices or whether it be for the domestic interests of hostile regimes.”

What has Interpol said? A spokesman told The National it could not comment on individual cases, but all requests for a Red Notice are checked for compliance with the organisation’s constitution and rules by a specialised task force.

Secretary General Jurgen Stock said the organisation does not publish lists of which countries issue Red Notices “in the name of international policing co-operation”.

“We do everything we can to ensure a proper process and that all information that goes through Interpol is properly checked against our rules,” Mr Stock said.

“I think it is a very robust system, and it is a very successful system first and foremost, because it helps almost every day around the world to catch dangerous fugitives, murderers, rapists, those who are exploiting children, drug traffickers.”

  • Original article available here

  • Image credits: EPA

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