Written evidence submitted by the Public Health Protection Network (IEF0011)

 

Dirty money under the veil of charity: The case of the Kurdistan Children Hospital

Summary:

       This submission presents evidence on how a UK charity was used to process and cover up the transfer of dirty money across borders (in this case involving political corruption in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq). The case we present below has similarities and connections to the use of dirty money by Russian oligarchs in the United Kingdom. Russia’s Rosneft owns 60% of the KRG oil pipelines with the rest owned by the Barzani controlled KAR group. Another Russian oil company, Gazprom controls a substantial proportion of oil exploration in the KRG as well. The KRG has been replicating Putin’s Russia’s assasination of dissidents and journalists, corruption, rigging of elections and authoritarianism.

 

       A UK charity (Kurdistan Children Hospital Foundation) was set up by prominent individuals affiliated with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and other organisations and companies. The individuals included the MInister of Planning, the head of the health department of the private office of Nechirvan Barzani (then the prime minister and current president of the KRG), the CEO of Oryx Petroleum and others.

 

       The charity’s bank account was used to transfer money donated by Oryx Petroleum and funds provided by the KRG to build a not-for-profit hospital for the children of Kurdistan in Erbil- The Kurdistan Children Hospital (the hospital).

 

       After completion, the hospital was taken over by a private university (The University of Kurdistan) which was founded by Nechirvan Barzani (then the Prime Minister and currently the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government). The latter’s son (Edris Barzani), who is in his late 20s, is the chancellor of the University. A former MP and minister in the UK government is currently the president of the University.

       Kurdistan University contracted the hospital to a private Turkish company that then changed the name to Santelife Hospital and started providing general medical services for rich clients rather than boost the country’s paediatric care system, as per the plan announced by the donors and the charity.

 

About us:

Public Health Protection Network (PHPN) is a network of healthcare workers, civil society activists, journalists, academics and organisations based in The Kurdistan region of Iraq. PHPN advocates health as a human right. Since our founding in 2020, we have been determined to make an impact on the health of the public in Kurdistan. The core of our efforts is to achieve Universal Health Coverage in Kurdistan. Through all of our endeavors we hope to, among other objectives, to end corruption in Kurdistan's health system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Factual Information:

  1. The hospital was built with commitments of over $45m USD from a Canadian/Swiss oil group, Oryx Petroeum/AOG (Figure one). The Board of Investment of Kurdistan Region of Iraq also dedicated money for the project. (Figure two)

Figure One: internal oryx petroleum documents showing the company's donation to the hospital

 

Figure two:  Kurdistan board of investment dedicating US 62,210,000 to the hospital

  1. a UK charity, Kurdistan Children’s Hospital Foundation was founded and was co-guaranteed, among others, by Oryx Petroleum, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Planning, and Heevie Organisation, an NGO in Kurdistan region of Iraq. The charity was also registered at Companies House in the UK. The Board of Directors included among others, Michael Ebsary Oryx CEO, Dr Ali Sindi, then Minister of Planning- KRG, and Dr Rang Shawis, brother of the former KRG Prime Minister Rosh Shaways (and former deputy prime minister of Iraq) (Figure three). Shawis deployed his colleagues in a private consultancy in Sheffield, Pioneer Healthcare, to set up and operate the hospital.

Figure Three: Oryx CEO- Mike Ebasary- with Nechirvan Barzani (then prime minister) and Ranj Shawis (British-Kurdish doctor, CEO of Kurdistan Children Hospital and Trustee of the charity).

  1. Oryx Petroleum presented The Kurdistan Children Hospital as a donation from the company as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility to the children of Kurdistan (Figures four and five) We have seen references to the financial commitments of $40m in the Oryx Petroleum annual reports [it is a publicly listed Alberta company]. They also refer to $5m of additional money from AOG, Geneva, Switzerland: the UK charity directors were the Chairman and CEO of both Oryx and AOG. AOG is a private company which was the main shareholder of Oryx. Oryx/AOG operate in Kurdistan and other corrupt environments, and come up in the Panama Papers.