Iraq Embassy Scandal Expands: Contractor May Have to Repay $130 Million
By Jeremy Scahill
A new State Department audit zeroes in on a politically-connected Kuwaiti company over shoddy work in constructing the world’s largest embassy
By Jeremy Scahill
The extent of the massive waste and abuse surrounding the construction of the monstrous US embassy in Baghdad continues to expand. The State Department has just released another audit of the embassy’s construction and suggests that the Kuwaiti contractor hired by the Bush administration to do most of the construction work may have to repay more than $130 million to US taxpayers as a result of construction deﬁciencies, incomplete and undocumented design work, inadequate quality control and interest on unauthorized payments.
First a bit of background:The Baghdad embassy—the largest of any nation on planet earth and ten times bigger than any other US embassy—is striking evidence indicating a continued US presence in the country for many years to come. The structure cost more than $700 million and is the size of 80 football fields. It is bigger than the Vatican, six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York and is about two thirds the size of the National Mall in Washington. It has space for 1,000 employees who are guarded by scores of paramilitary mercenary forces.
In other words it is the perfect structure for a nation that claims to be leaving Iraq very soon. The embassy is more like a fortress and hardly sends a message of warm diplomacy. "What kind of embassy is it when everybody lives inside and it’s blast-proof, and people are running around with helmets and crouching behind sandbags?" said Edward Peck, the former US ambassador to Iraq when the embassy was first being constructed.
The company that was contracted to build the embassy was First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting (FKTC). It’s run by Mohammad I. H. Marafie, "a member of one of the most powerful mercantile families in Kuwait," according to CorpWatch. "FKTC’s general manager and co-owner, Wadih al-Absi jets back and forth to the United States, dreaming of magazine covers celebrating his rise to a global player in large-scale engineering and construction… FKTC is one of the many Middle East companies that collectively ship tens of thousands of cheap day laborers to Iraq’s war zones where they are paid just dollars a day."
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