Polish officers who served in Iraq go on trial

Fourteen Polish military officers and civilians went on trial Tuesday on charges of taking bribes while serving as part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

The nine officers and five civilians are charged with "making illegal profits" and jointly taking bribes amounting to €600,000 from local companies bidding for construction projects in the central Iraqi provinces of Diwaniyah and Babil.

The group of 12 men and two women worked in Iraq for a Polish-led military office responsible for cooperation between the coalition troops and Iraqi civilian administration.

At the start of the trial, each of the defendants stood briefly to give their names and other details, but did not testify.

The military prosecutor, whose name was not released, read out the indictment.

According to the prosecutor, during an investigation, chief defendant Col. Mariusz Saletra and two other civilian defendants denied committing the offenses. The other defendants admitted taking money, the prosecutor said.

If convicted, the defendants could face up to 12 years in prison. The officers - ranging from the rank of sergeant to colonel - could also be demoted.

The case came to light in February after two Polish officers returning from Iraq were found with a total of €75,000 in cash - a sum far exceeding what they could have saved on their salaries.

Prosecutors have recovered a total of about €190,000 in Poland and in Iraq in the course of the investigation, the AP reports.


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