Iraqi Defence Minister Najah al-Shammari has reportedly hired a Swedish lawyer and is threatening to sue several Swedish news sites for allegedly spreading “false claims”, national broadcaster SVT reported, citing a Facebook statement from the Iraqi Ministry of Defence.
Last week, the news outlet Nyheter Idag disclosed that al-Shammari was a Swedish citizen registered in Stockholm suburb, which was subsequently confirmed by the Swedish Ministry of Defence. A preliminary investigation into grant fraud was also launched, as al-Shammari was disclosed to have received a permanent disability allowance due to memory problems. According to Nyheter Idag, one of the grants amounted to SEK 5,200 ($540) per month, whereas another one, a multi-child supplement, amounted to SEK 4,480 ($465).
The Iraqi Ministry of Defence retorted with allegations of spreading what it called false information, dismissing the reports as “fabricated lying news with the aim of harming the minister's personal and professional life”.
Nyheter Idag, the news outlet behind the scoop, also suggested that al-Shammari has sent messages of a sexual nature to young men (with statements like “I like your ass” and “I want to f*** you sex sex sex” included in screenshots), as well as has engaged in domestic violence in the form of both verbal aggression and actual violence.
52-year-old Najah al-Shammari, a former military officer under Saddam Hussein, took over as Iraqi Defence Minister in June. He is reportedly registered in Sweden using his “clan name” as an alias. According to the Swedish Tax Agency, he applied for a residence permit in 2009 and became a Swedish citizen in 2015. The Iraqi constitution permits Iraqis to have dual citizenship, but not for persons on positions of power.
Speculations about al-Shammari being a Swedish citizen first started circulating in Iraqi media in spring, which his party, al-Wataniya or the National Coalition, vehemently denied, instead describing him as a competent and patriotic figure.
“There are many question marks about a person who has been able to take advantage of the Swedish social insurance system for years without being stopped. Especially after becoming a government member in Iraq,” Swedish Moderate party group leader Tobias Billström told SVT.
Social Security Minister Ardalan Shekarabi called crimes against the welfare system “reprehensible” assuring that not a single krona shall be spent on those who are not entitled to help.
“If a defence minister from an Arab country simultaneously has refugee status in Sweden, who is he on the run from? Himself?” journalist Mattias Albinsson tweeted.
Om en försvarsminister i ett arabland samtidigt har flyktingstatus i Sverige, vem befinner han sig då på flykt ifrån? Sig själv?— Mattias Albinsson (@mattiasreporter) 21 ноября 2019 г.
Nyheter Idag's editor-in-chief Chang Frick said that “fully trusts” that the Swedish government will stand behind the media's right to “investigate corrupt holders of power”.