PUK executive council chief Mala Bakhtiar. File photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Some 30,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil are being looted from Kirkuk and smuggled into Sulaimani, a top Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) official claimed Sunday.
In a Facebook post, PUK executive council chief Mala Bakhtiar said: “According to information provided (and not refuted yet), some 30,000 barrels of oil from Jambur oil fields in Taza town in Kirkuk are looted via tankers belonging to certain officials.”
Tankers carrying the “looted oil” are “queuing all the way from Kirkuk to Sulaimani and they will be sold based on special deals,” Bakhtiar said.
“Embezzlement, corruption, and fraud have become a dangerous triangle in Iraq,” including in the Kurdistan Region and the disputed territories.
“This dangerous triangle can be done only by the high ranking officials who wield immense governing authority in politics and possess military forces,” he added.
Responding to an article published by the Economist magazine, Bakhtiar condemned Iraq and the Region’s poor performance in global indexes on corruption and election fairness.
“On the Iraq and Kurdistan level, the simmering corruption and the retreat of democracy and the manipulating of election results have taken root at all levels and thus Iraq is now 114th among the democratic systems and one of the top 10 countries where the most vote rigging and corruptions take place,” he said.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi government reached an agreement in November 2018 to resume the export of Kirkuki oil via a pipeline connecting the disputed province to Turkey’s Ceyhan port following a year’s hiatus.
Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitias took over Kirkuk in October 2017, wresting the province’s oilfields from KRG control. Iraq began trucking the oil over the Iranian border until US-imposed sanctions on Tehran forced Baghdad to negotiate the pipeline deal with the KRG.
Kurdish lawmakers in the Iraqi parliament say the deal will not only help prevent the illegal smuggling of oil but also help Erbil and Baghdad resolve their disputes.
Kirkuk is thought to possess reserves of nine billion barrels of oil. The province has the capacity to produce nearly 400,000 bpd.
Nearly 300,000 barrels of this oil is dedicated to Iraqi refineries, while 100,000 is supposed to be exported via the Kurdistan pipeline under the supervision of the Iraqi state oil company SOMO.