- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

BAGHDAD — Ahmed Chalabi, a former Iraqi Governing Council member who fell out of favor with the United States, has returned to Iraq to face counterfeiting charges, an official in his political party said yesterday.

Arrest warrants for Mr. Chalabi and his nephew were issued Saturday by Iraq’s Central Criminal Court. The nephew, Salem Chalabi, is wanted for murder.

Ahmed Chalabi, who was in Iran when the warrants were announced, had said he would return to Iraq to clear his name. He arrived in Baghdad yesterday afternoon, said Mithal al-Alusi, of Mr. Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress.

“He is back among his people and trying to get some rest before returning to his political duties, trying to help the government and stop the violence,” Mr. al-Alusi said.

A former member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Mr. Chalabi once enjoyed strong ties with the United States. But he had a falling out with the Americans and was left out of Iraq’s interim government.

Salem Chalabi leads the special tribunal in charge of trying ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Earlier yesterday, Mr. al-Alusi said Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had told the elder Mr. Chalabi to stay out of the country until proper security could be provided.

It was not clear whether security arrangements were made by the time Mr. Chalabi arrived, but armed men pulled up outside his Baghdad residence yesterday evening, removing automatic rifles from the cars and taking them inside.

Judge Zuhair al-Maliky, Iraq’s chief investigating judge who signed the warrants on Saturday, said it was up to the police and the Interior Ministry to carry out the warrant and arrest Mr. Chalabi.

“I’m not responsible for the arrest. It’s for the police to deal with,” Mr. al-Maliky said.

The warrant against Ahmed Chalabi accused him of counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars, which were removed from circulation after Saddam’s ouster last year.

Iraqi police backed by U.S. troops found counterfeit money along with old dinars when they raided Mr. Chalabi’s Baghdad house in May, Mr. al-Maliky said previously. Mr. Chalabi apparently was mixing counterfeit money with real money and changing it into new dinars on the street, the judge said.

Mr. Chalabi said he collected the fake currency in his role as chairman of the Iraqi Governing Council’s finance committee.

The warrant against Salem Chalabi named him as a suspect in the June murder of Haithem Fadhil, director general of the Finance Ministry.

Salem Chalabi has said he had never met Mr. Fadhil, whom he is accused of threatening over a real-estate dispute. It was not known whether the younger Mr. Chalabi also had returned to the country.

Separately yesterday, an attorney for Ahmed Chalabi in the United States filed a lawsuit on his behalf against the Jordanian government and the Central Bank of Jordan. It stems from Mr. Chalabi’s 1992 conviction in absentia of embezzlement, fraud and breach of trust after a bank he ran collapsed with about $300 million in missing deposits.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, accuses the Jordanian government of a conspiracy dating to 1989 to steal Petra Bank from Mr. Chalabi, strip it of assets and then blame the former Iraqi exile for its ruin.

Mr. Chalabi’s attorney, John Markham, said the suit was filed in Washington because Petra Bank did significant business in the United States and had a U.S. subsidiary.

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