Iraq's defence minister, Najah al-Shammari, is also accused of heavy-handed treatment of protests in Iraq. Photo: Hadi Mizban/TT
Al-Shammari, who is registered in Sweden with the surname Najah Al-Adeli, emigrated to Sweden in 2009, became a Swedish citizen in 2015, and is reportedly still officially registered as living in the Stockholm suburb of Vårby.
According to Sweden's Expressen newspaper, al-Shammari and his wife were reported two weeks ago for alleged benefits fraud after continuing to claim payments years after returning to Iraq.
According to the Aftonbladet newspaper, the 52-year-old has also previously received sick pay, claiming that memory problems left him unable to work. A judgement in the Swedish Civil Courts obtained by Expressen stated that al-Shammari and his family had, “for a long time been partly dependent on welfare support”.
Neighbours who SVT visited also confirmed that al-Shammari and al-Adeli were the same person.
Toni Eriksson, press secretary for Sweden's defence minister Peter Hultqvist, confirmed to Swedish state broadcaster SVT on Friday that Al-Shammari is a Swedish citizen — something that was denied by the Iraqi political coalition that pushed for his appointment.
At about 6pm on Saturday, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence posted a statement up on its Facebook page dismissing the reports as “a cheap attempt to discredit” the minister .
The statement threatened legal action against those media who published stories on the alleged offence.
“The minister is renowned for his bravery and stability and has followed to a tee the instructions of the highest military leader Adel Adil Abdul Mahdi not to put demonstrators in danger but instead to support them and help them to carry out the peaceful demonstrations which are their guaranteed right according to the constitution,” said the statement.
It is permitted for Iraqis to have dual citizenship, but under the country's constitution, those holding top ministerial positions are required to renounce citizenships of foreign countries.
The story was first broken by Nyheter Idag, a web newspaper that made its name by breaking the story of widespread sexual assaults at a pop festival in Stockholm in 2015.