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3 SKorean soldiers convicted of bribery in Iraq

3 SKorean soldiers convicted of bribery in Iraq

Three South Korean army personnel have been convicted of accepting or seeking bribes while serving as part of a U.S.-led alliance aimed at rebuilding Iraq, an official said Tuesday.
One of the three, a captain, was sentenced last month by a South Korean military court to three years in prison for taking $25,000 and a digital camera worth $800 from a local firm involved in construction projects in the northern city of Irbil in return for administrative favors, said an official at South Korea's Defense Ministry.
Two others _ a master sergeant and a major _ received suspended jail terms for demanding bribes from other Iraqi firms, said the ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department policy. The two failed to get any money, he said.
All three convicted personnel have appealed the rulings, which were handed down April 3, the official said.
They belonged to a South Korean contingent stationed in Irbil between 2004-2008 as part of U.S.-led multinational forces. The area is largely populated by ethnic Kurds.
At the height of its deployment, the South Korean unit _ code-named "Zaytun," or "olive" in Arabic _ had about 3,600 troops in Iraq, making it the second-largest U.S. coalition partner in the country after Britain.
The South Korean government provided 88 billion won to its contingent to help support reconstruction and medical programs, the official said. Under current exchange rates, 88 billion won is about $69 million. The unit was also granted $74 million from the U.S.-led multinational command for its reconstruction operations, another ministry official said, also on condition of anonymity.
The first official said the convicted captain received his bribe from a local company and it was not known if the money came from South Korean funds, U.S. funds or the local Iraqi firm's own money.
The U.S. has spent nearly $51 billion on reconstruction in Iraq but the projects have often been troubled by waste and corruption.
The 30-year-old captain, identified only by his family name Park, offered administrative favors such as extending the deadline for construction work and lax supervision in exchange for the bribe, the official said.
The local company had been building medical centers and schools in Irbil under a $5 million contract, he said, refusing to disclose the firm's name.
All three of the convicted admitted their wrongdoing but appealed the rulings to a higher military court, arguing the punishments were too harsh, the official said.
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Associated Press Writer Kim Gamel in Baghdad contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-07-27 23:51 GMT+08:00