Iraqi Scam: Looking For Police Job, Finding A Con In Iraq's dismal economy, the desperate search for jobs has fueled a new kind of scam. Con artists are telling young men that they can bribe their way into the Iraqi security forces. The would-be recruits pay up, and the scammers keep the money for themselves.
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Iraqi Scam: Looking For Police Job, Finding A Con

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Iraqi Scam: Looking For Police Job, Finding A Con

Iraqi Scam: Looking For Police Job, Finding A Con

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Now as more troops head for Afghanistan, we got a reminder, today, of the war the United States wants to leave behind. A series of bombs exploded, today, in Iraq. Cars were rigged with explosives in Baghdad.


One bomb exploded near the labor ministry, another went off by the finance ministry, a third struck a court complex. We're told the death toll is around 100 people, today. Many more people were injured. And we'll bring you more as we learn it.

INSKEEP: The U.S. is relying on Iraqi troops to eventually secure that country, so it is hard to know what to make of the following trend. Many years ago, Iraqis paid bribes to keep out of the army. Now, with so many unemployed some Iraqis pay bribes to get in the army. The trouble is that not everybody who takes a bribe has access to an army job.

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Baghdad.

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

COREY FLINTOFF: At Camp Dublin, just outside Baghdad, Iraqi policemen go through relentless training, under the hard eyes of the Italian paramilitary police known as Carabinieri. In this exercise they are learning to act as bodyguards for vulnerable officials such as judges, a job in which they are expected to shield the people under their protection with their own bodies.

(Soundbite of gunshots)

FLINTOFF: Lieutenant Bell, a Carabinieri officer, says it takes a lot to get someone to react properly under extreme pressure.

Lieutenant BELL (Carabinieri Officer): So, the training that they are doing here is very hard, it's very hard. We stress them a lot, both from a physical and a mental and a psychological point of view.

FLINTOFF: Despite the stress and the danger, this job happens to be one of the most desirable in Iraq right now, because there aren't many alternatives. The United Nations says at least 28 percent of Iraqi men in the 15-to-29 age group are unemployed and many more and underemployed, unable to get more than occasional work.

Mr. SALEEM AL-MAYAHE: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: This is Saleem al-Mayahe, a 42-year-old former security guard who says there are simply no jobs available. He says the government promises of work are all lies and hypocrisy.

Saleem has three grown sons, all of whom have families, who survive on occasional odd jobs. His biggest hope, he says, was to get his sons jobs in one of the few areas that offer steady employment in Iraq - the army or the police.

Mr. AL-MAYAHE: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: When the government was weak, Saleem says, it was hiring all comers for the security forces, but his sons were hoping for better, safer jobs, so they didn't apply. Now, Iraq's economy has worsened and jobs are much harder to find.

U.S. policy in Iraq made it a top priority to build a strong army and police force, a task that meant hiring and training hundreds of thousands of men. That, says U.S. Army Major General Richard Rowe, has been a success story.

Major General RICHARD ROWE (U.S. Army): That's well over 600,000 that actually are uniformed service members or police.

FLINTOFF: But what happens when the army and police stop hiring?

Maj. Gen. ROWE: They have been limited by the national economy and what the budget of Iraq has allowed them to do and have essentially been operating under a hiring freeze for more than a year.

FLINTOFF: Saleem al-Mayahe says it's well known that there are ways to get around that hiring freeze - paying some money in the right places.

Mr. AL-MAYAHE: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Saleem says he paid $500 to a local cleric who promised to get a job for his son. The cleric claimed that he had influence in the ministry of interior, which is responsible for hiring police. Worse yet, Saleem says, he convinced other members of his family to pay as well - eight $500 bribes in all. After stalling for weeks, the conman escaped to Syria with the money and hasn't been heard from since.

Mr. AL-MAYAHE: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Now, Saleem says, he's been selling everything in his house, including his wife's gold jewelry, to make up for the money his family members lost. Saleem says he knows that what he did was wrong but that he was so desperate he would do anything to find work for his sons, even dangerous jobs in the police.

Iraqi members of parliament who oversee the police say they have heard complaints of corruption in recruiting, but so far, no one has brought them enough proof to open an investigation. Meanwhile, Saleem's 25-year-old son, Mohammed, doesn't see any solution to his problems.

Mr. MOHAMMED AL-MAYAHE: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He says killing and stealing are among the options that tempt young men like him when there's no honest work to be had.

An estimated 250,000 more young men come of age to start seeking jobs in Iraq each year. If the government can't find work for them, the temptations of crime and insurgency could grow.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Baghdad.

(Soundbite of music)


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