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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 February 2006, 22:53 GMT
US official admits Iraq aid theft
By Adam Brookes
BBC News, Washington

Child walking through Baghdad slum
The post-war reconstruction effort has been heavily criticised
In the United States, a former official has admitted stealing millions of dollars meant for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Robert Stein held a senior position in the Coalition Provisional Authority, which administered Iraq after American and allied forces invaded in 2003.

In a Washington court, he admitted to stealing more than $2m (1.12m) and taking bribes in return for contracts.

He faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Robert Stein's story is one of extraordinary corruption and excess amid the ruins of Iraq.

He was in charge of overseeing money for the rebuilding of shattered infrastructure in south-central Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

Suitcases of cash

Mr Stein admitted in court to conspiring to give out contracts worth $8m to a certain company in return for bribes.

He also received gifts and sexual favours lavished on him at a special villa in Baghdad.

But it didn't stop there.

Robert Stein admitted to stealing $2m from reconstruction funds.

Some of that money, the court heard, was smuggled onto aircraft and flown back to the United States in suitcases.

The case is an ugly twist in the tale of post-war Iraq.

The Coalition Provisional Authority, which ceased to exist in 2004, has already endured some tough criticism over the way it managed funds and handed out contracts.

A report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction on how the authority went about its business is expected in the coming weeks.

The signs are it could make embarrassing reading for many of those involved.



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