This Business of Torture

Money factory? A prison in Baghdad. / REUTERS

Torture has become an industry in Iraq.

Security forces are picking up Iraqi men–Sunni or Shi’a, it no longer matters–whom they are detaining and torturing for years at a time. All the while, the officers are extorting money from family members sick with anguish over their loved ones.

In a remarkable investigation, the Guardian interviewed 14 detainees and five officers in different branches of the security services. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of a parasitic security empire, in officers men who have paid up to $300,000 a year for security posts take citizens prisoner and torture them mercilessly as way of earning back their investment.

Their demands force families to sell their furniture and beg from friends to pay ransoms that grow larger each time they are fulfilled.

How do they make victims confess? “We hang them from the ceiling and beat them until they are motionless corpses,” one security officer said. “Then they confess.'”

Sweep to Corruption in Iraq: “Your son is being tortured. He will die if you don’t pay.”

High-profile Australian art dealer Ronald Coles had for decades lived the high life – raking in tens of millions of dollars, driving Bentleys and flaunting his lavish lifestyle as one of the country’s leading brokers of Australia’s top artists.

Now, Coles has been arrested and charged with orchestrating a huge multi-million-dollar fraud, which among other things, involved selling the same works of art to multiple buyers. He faces 87 charges tied to the scheme, which has left dozens of victims in its wake across the country.

As The Chronicle — based in Ballarat, Australia — reports, Coles advertised nationwide for years, “offering clients an opportunity to boost their life savings by investing in art, which he bought, exhibited and sold on their behalf.” Since the artwork remained in Coles’ own gallery, he was able to sell them to multiple owners without them realizing they were being duped.

If convicted, the 64-year-old faces up to 10 years in prison.

Sweep to Art dealer arrested over fraud

Albania's former prime minister, ilir Meta, greets supporters. / REUTERS

Former Albanian prime minister Ilir Meta was acquitted Monday on corruption charges tied to pressuring the country’s economic minister over a hydroelectric power station deal.

Meta was forced to resign last year when the allegations surfaced, as protesters took to the streets.

In an odd twist to the case, there was actually video of Meta allegedly doing the deed. As the AP reports, former Economy Minister Dritan Prifti – who was on the receiving end of the pressure -had “released a video that he said documented the March 2010 incident.” Meta’s defense? He claimed the tape was “fabricated.”

Whether the acquittal will affect Albania’s chances of joining the European Union remains unclear. But EU officials have cited the country’s failure to root out corruption as an impediment to its admission.

Sweep to Albanian ex-premier acquitted of corruption charges


Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is president and executive editor of 100Reporters, and the founder and co-director of the Double Exposure Film Festival and Symposium, the United States' only investigative film festival.