To fight corruption, Barzani needs to clean house

Michael Rubin

By Michael Rubin:

Against the backdrop of the Arab Spring protests and corollary demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan, regional president Masud Barzani promised to crack down on corruption. “I am determined to combat corruption and introduce reforms. Together, let us make this the year of preserving our unity, fighting corruption, and finalizing the integration of the KRG security institutions,” he said. Masrour Barzani, his eldest son and heir apparent, has also promised accountability for the corrupt.  “If someone inside the KDP is accused of corruption, he should face the court, like any ordinary person. The KDP is against corruption and is putting all its efforts into reforms and eradicating corruption,” he declared in a magazine interview last month.There is growing evidence, however, that in order to be seen as champions against corruption, the Barzanis may have to clean up their own house by creating transparency with regard to the family’s dealings.

In October 2010, the local press in the Washington, DC, area was abuzz with news about the sale of one of the region’s choicest mansions. Topping the list in McLean, Virginia, at a price tag of just over $10 million, was this mansion, less than five kilometers from the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters. According to this real estate listing, the mansion not only has four floors, but a five-car garage.  Other descriptions boast six bedrooms and eight bathrooms.

The house was sold, according to a Washington society magazine (see pages 90-91), by an Iranian American developer and aspiring singer. While the house is a residence, the purchaser is listed on public records as Apeks, a limited liability company (LLC).

Apeks, LLC, itself is a bit mysterious. There are firms named Apeks in a number of countries—Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and the United States. One American firm with that name was founded by an Ohio resident as a pretty standard consulting operation, but has since been sold after which the name apparently lapsed.

Less than three weeks before the purchase of the mega-mansion, however, the name Apeks, LLC, was again registered, this time with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s State Corporation Commission.  At the time of the registration, the address matched that of Zell Law, a boutique law firm which has since folded into a larger firm and now resides at a different address from that of Apeks’ registration.

On August 24, 2011, I sent an email to the lawyer who headed the now-closed firm, inquiring about Apeks, LLC.  He responded that he would not be able to share information regarding Apeks, LLC. According to his work profile, his expertise includes estate and business planning, and the preservation of wealth. In other words, his specialty includes shielding his clients’ wealth against those who might take too close an interest in it, such as governments who tax it.

If Apeks, LLC, has a relationship with the Barzani family, the electronically-accessible public records do not directly show it.  Under Virginia law, Apeks, LLC, does not yet need to report its activities or disclose its officers online.

There is ample evidence, however, to suggest that Masrour Barzani may be the new owner of the mansion. The previous owner and developer of the mansion was an aspiring Iranian American singer. After Los Angeles, the Washington, DC, area is a center of the Iranian Diaspora in the United States, and so sustains Persian language book stores and newspapers. In an interview with a local Persian language newspaper, the previous owner ignored Apeks, LLC, and bragged that the “house…had been sold to the son of a powerful foreign politician.”

In addition, area residents and Kurds living in the area say Masrour Barzani has repeatedly stayed in the mansion during his frequent trips to Washington.  The residence is close to the Tysons Corner Mall, home to many swank shops, where Masud Barzani’s sons shop and dine during trips to Washington. An express mail envelope sent to Masrour Barzani at the mansion was accepted by the occupant. A representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government, when contacted by email regarding the property, declined comment.

In Iraqi Kurdistan, it has always been troubling that the ruling families appear to conflate personal, party and government property. If, for example, Masud Barzani retires after his second term, it is unclear whether he would forfeit the Sar-e Rash resort he calls home to his successor; other retired officials have not evacuated the homes they acquired. Nor have many of the political leaders and the family dynasties they spawned ever explained to the public how they acquired such vast wealth when, just a couple decades ago, they were penniless. Having a shell corporation own the swank property would also make sense, given the possibility that Masrour Barzani could be sued by victims who allege mistreatment by the intelligence and security services which he heads and who believe him to be complicit in their mistreatment.

Transparency matters. Regardless of the mansion’s ownership, if President Barzani is sincere about combating corruption, he should require that every official serving in his government detail their property holdings and business interests, not only in Iraqi Kurdistan, but also abroad, and demand any officials in the Kurdistan Regional Government also reveal properties owned or held by other individuals or corporations in which they reside. This will combat conflicts of interest. Certainly, if President Barzani is sincere, he should not wish a discrepancy to develop between the promises he makes to the Kurdish public and the actions of his family.

Leadership emerges from the top, and so it might behoove President Barzani to set an example by making his family Kurdistan’s most transparent.  After all, while President Barzani considers himself a great populist and nationalist leader, ordinary Kurds may find troubling luxuries family members acquire, not only in Kurdistan but also apparently overseas. Such mansions, after all, are more reminiscent of those collected by the Saddam, Mubarak, Ben Ali, and Qadhafi clans; they should not be acquired by persons whose government salaries would be too minimal to allow them to afford.  Perhaps the president’s office should be grand because his office represents Kurdistan. However, insatiable appetites for luxury are not the image which the Barzani’s should be projecting to the people of Kurdistan, nor do such palaces bring the Kurds respect as a developing democracy among governments and officials abroad.

17 Responses to To fight corruption, Barzani needs to clean house
  1. Daban Q. Jaff
    September 11, 2011 | 15:02

    Saddam, Assad, Bashir, Mubarak, Ben Ali, Qadhafi, and Barzani are the son of one mother, sharing same habit , behavior and most dangerously same thinking. all of them melt down same way

  2. Hamma Mirwaisi
    September 12, 2011 | 13:42

    It is shame for America created so many dictators in Iraq and Kurdistan

    Here is the result what America did in Kurdistan

    Kurdish girl committed suicide by burning herself in Erbil/Kurdistan because she cannot find job after graduating from school for last three years.

    Please see the video

    http://www.hawlati.co/%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%88%D8%AE%DB%86/

  3. karimbarzani
    September 12, 2011 | 16:21

    I think Barzani tribe is worst than the others and this is the smallest currupted case.Thia family has lots of Masrur Barzani that every one has same case .I am Barzani but I hate them because they are business man no political man

  4. aram .kader
    September 13, 2011 | 01:43

    we donnt love barzany

    • taha hamza
      September 16, 2011 | 07:28

      hello thankyu m.micheal rubin

  5. Naska Rwandzy
    September 13, 2011 | 10:15

    A 22 yers old lady named Banaz burnt herself two days ago in Erbil Capital of KRG. Before she die, KNN journalist talked to her and she said that she is a graduate of tecnical instituition , and for a year and a half she she looks for job with Government department but no one employed her and she said that she is in a poor family and she pessed off this is why she burnt herself!!!!!!
    This Palace ogf Mr. Mansur Barzani which equals $10,000,000 is enough for the salary of 2777 staff members for one year with avrage salary of $300!!!! ($300 is the salary the for a new employed staff in Erbil.)

  6. Soran
    September 13, 2011 | 14:52

    I have read the press release from Mr Barzani’s office. In fact there is not much denial of him buying this mansion as much as a personal attack of Mr Rubin and Hawlati newspaper.What saddens me most is the relative silence of the majority of my fellow Kurds over this and thousand of other abuses of their rights by this corrupt family.An incident like Banaz’ death was enough to trigger a revolution in the Arab world which we are still witnessing.Finally it is about time that the USA realised that supporting these little dictators and their families will only harm its long term interests in the region.

  7. Haval
    September 13, 2011 | 19:51

    KRG and Masrur’s spokesman stated that Michael Rubin want the revenge, i dont know what revenge.The ability and infatigability of Michael can tell a lot to the whole world, surely he doesn’t want revenge, all he asks for is transparency, nothing else.

  8. aram ali
    September 21, 2011 | 23:31

    when we are talking about corruption in kurdistan its like we tlking about national anthem we dnt have national anthem for the indpenend country yet but our national anthem its corruption day nite tv radion leadre kid student farmer docter teacher evry one talking about corruption but whats pint how u tackling corruption just talk abut it na the only way u acn countrol change goverment from the leader til the headmaster in schole

  9. Tiffany Sandidge
    December 7, 2011 | 00:01

    Tiffany Sandidge…

    Really appreciate you sharing this post. Much obliged….

  10. hasobarzani
    December 7, 2011 | 06:38

    I agree with Michael Roben. but Kurdish nation have to change this political system without forigen force .and I think Kurdish people still are ripe and and they need more time.

  11. […] according to multiple sources in the American Kurdish community, set up a corporation to acquire a $10+ million villa in northern Virginia. Youngest son Mullah Mustafa publicly consorts with figures during his […]

    • rawans
      September 2, 2012 | 17:00

      i agree with u its imposible how barzany stolen kurdistan stocks and barzany isnt president as his a bigest trade man and his not worth kirdish lidership his kurdish killer

  12. sako halabjai
    May 18, 2012 | 17:22

    Dear/Michael Rubin it is better ask your governmenet(USA)whenever,he advertising a democracy for nations especialy third world country, have to think why and how these country suffering because of dectatorship?
    we have to know how Barzani came on a power it is not new for your country history. yes you as USA always suporting adectator and neverremove them on the nations intrest. One thing i would like to indecate for you remember you done same thing with SADAM,they kidnaped young student at front of SALAHADEEN UNIVERSITY and they said he involve with terrorist. shame for us those wolves rolling our country shame for USA they are still in a power.

  13. rawans
    September 2, 2012 | 16:44

    i thing usa resosible for every single situation because always usa suport dictatoership who made barzany it was u also barzany is the one of the most dictator in the world and morthen

  14. khorsheed
    May 25, 2013 | 16:05

    Please may you convince the ministry of justice and the council of justice not to overlook their duties for justice in the courts.

  15. khorsheed
    June 6, 2013 | 18:11

    Nothing practically is done to identify and manage corruption in the courts of Law.

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