The Iraqi defence minister has been reported to Swedish police for benefits fraud, according to local media, amid claims he was receiving child and housing support long after returning to Baghdad.
Najah al-Shammari, a Major General in the Iraqi Army who served under former dictator Saddam Hussein, was appointed Iraq’s Defence Minister in June but previously lived in Sweden since at least 2012.
According to Sweden’s Expressen newspaper, the 52-year-old was reported to Swedish police for fraud two weeks ago, after news reports revealed that he was still registered as living in Sweden under the name Najah Al-Adeli. Records indicate that he received 51,900 kronor (£4,200) in welfare payments in 2013 and 33,200 kronor (£2,700) in 2014, the newspaper reported. It is unclear when he returned to Iraq.
According to Aftonbladet newspaper, al-Shammari claimed while living in Sweden that memory problems left him unable to work. A 2014 judgement from a Swedish court stated that al-Shammari and his family had, “for a long time been partly dependent on welfare support”.
Al-Shammari became a Swedish citizen in 2015. Despite the assertions of the Iraqi political coalition which pushed for his appointment earlier this year, a spokesperson for Sweden’s Defence Minister confirmed to state broadcaster SVT on Friday that he still holds Swedish citizenship.
Al-Shammari has faced sharp criticism in recent weeks for the Iraqi army’s heavy-handed response to the protests currently sweeping the the country.
During a visit to France last Saturday, he accused a “third party” of being behind many of the deaths.
“The Iraqi national security forces are not the ones who are killing the protesters,” he told France 24’s Arabic language channel. “There is a third party killing the protesters to push protesters to clash with security forces to spread instability in Iraq.”
Vårby, the district south of Stockholm where he is registered as living, is classed by Swedish police as a “vulnerable” area, meaning residents suffer from high levels of crime and social problems.