(Associated Press) - A dual U.S.-Iraqi citizen and the country's only postwar Cabinet minister to be convicted of corruption has escaped police custody for a second time, an Iraqi official said Monday.
Former Electricity Minister Ayham al-Samaraie escaped Sunday with help from members of a non-Iraqi security company he had hired to protect him before his arrest, said Faris Kareem, deputy head of the Public Integrity Commission. The anti-corruption panel had brought charges against him.
Al-Samaraie was convicted in October of corruption and sentenced to two years in prison, reports Trend.
A Sunni Arab political figure, al-Samaraie was a member of the transitional government set up after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
The former minister is believed to have had contacts with Sunni Arab insurgents and has tried to persuade them to put down their weapons and join the political process.
Arrest warrants have been issued for about 90 former officials, including 15 ministers, on charges of corruption, according to the independent commission. Al-Samaraie is the only official to have been convicted and imprisoned on such charges.
This was al-Samaraie's second escape. The first was a few days after his conviction, when Iraqi officials caught him at the Baghdad airport with a Chinese passport, Kareem said.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said he was aware of reports of al-Samaraie's escape, but declined to comment further. U.S. officials had been in touch with al-Samaraie in prison to provide basic consular services, spokesman Lou Fintor said.
Al-Samaraie survived an assassination attempt in February when a roadside bomb targeted his three-car convoy in Baghdad's western Mansour district. Two bodyguards were wounded.
He was convicted in October on one of 13 charges of corruption, and still faces trial on the other 12 counts. The charges concern an estimated $2 billion in missing funds for contracts on rebuilding Iraq's electrical infrastructure.
Kareem said his commission would press negligence charges against the police officials in charge of al-Samaraie's security at a Baghdad facility. Police reported his escape Sunday night, several hours after he got away, Kareem said.
The Public Integrity Commission, which reports to parliament, is run by a judge who serves a five-year term. It was established in 2003 after the U.S.-led invasion.
Iraq has been struggling to deal with endemic corruption in the civil services. The commission has cited the loss of $7.5 billion through corruption in the past three years.