Iraq says it still has Qatari money sent to free ruling family

Prime Minister Abadi says Iraq still has the millions of dollars allegedly sent by Qatar to pay the ransom for royal family members abducted in 2015 as reports accused Doha of giving the cash to Iran, angering the Saudis.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, second left in front row, receives the released Qataris at the Doha airport, Qatar, April 21, 2017.

Iraq still has hundreds of millions of dollars sent by Qatar in April to secure the release of members of the Qatari ruling family abducted in 2015, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi said on Sunday.

The 26 hostages, including members of Qatar's ruling royal family, were abducted in 2015 during a hunting trip in southern Iraq, near a Saudi border area dominated by Shia militias close to Iran.

The money has been in the central bank in Baghdad, pending a decision on what to do with it, said Abadi on Sunday in comments broadcast on state TV.

"Not one dollar, or euro ... was spent; they are still in their crates, supervised by a committee, and two representatives of the Qatari government came to check when they were deposited under the trusteeship of the central bank," he said.

The decision on how to dispose of the money "has a political aspect and has a legal aspect, it will be taken in conformity with Iraqi law," Abadi said, without elaborating.

But press reports had suggested some of the money had ended up in Iran, angering Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab neighbours of Qatar. It also contributed to their decision to severe ties with Doha.

Abadi said in April authorities had seized suitcases containing hundreds of millions of dollars on a private Qatari jet that landed in Baghdad.

He suggested the funds were part of a deal to free the Qatari hostages without Baghdad's approval.

It is unclear how their release was negotiated.

No one claimed responsibility for the abductions.