Iran-Linked Armed Groups Run Massive Customs-Evasion Ring on Iraq’s Border: Report
i24 News – The Tehran-linked Popular Mobilization Front (PMF) militias in Iraq are largely controlling the country’s border with Iran, running a giant customs-evasion ring, the AFP reported on Wednesday.
The agency ran a six-month investigation into the murky world of Iraq’s shadow economy, which takes billions from the state coffers every year to redistribute them among various groups.
The PMF militias are exercising informal control over many of the country’s entry points, the AFP probe found, and threaten state officials seeking to rein them in.
The militias made use of Iraq’s outdated import process to offer merchants quicker and cheaper entry that denies revenues to the government as those are split between militias, corrupt officials and others involved in the scheme.
They also offer discounts on customs duties, misrepresenting the contents or volume of shipments on official papers to have those slashed.
The agency cited Iraq’s Finance Minister Ali Allawi as saying that the country must be making $7 billion per year on customs duties — but in reality, no more than 10-12 percent of that reaches the state coffers.
The PMF armed groups, predominantly Shi’ite and in many cases backed by Iran, rose to prominence during Iraq’s war on Islamic State terrorists and were eventually integrated into the official chain of command.
The US has repeatedly blamed groups affiliated with the PMF for attacks on its interests in Iraq.