Staff Alleges Abuse By Top Iraq Auditor

04/06/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Federal investigators called at least nine current and former employees of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction before a grand jury in Richmond on March 18, and the FBI has summoned others for questioning this week, marking a new phase in the probe of allegations against SIGIR chief Stuart W. Bowen Jr., according to witnesses and other sources familiar with the investigation.

The FBI and U.S. attorneys have been investigating whether Bowen and his top deputy, Ginger Cruz, improperly accessed staff e-mails in violation of federal law. Current and former SIGIR employees interviewed by the FBI and questioned before the grand jury have complained of mismanagement and abuse of authority, including retaliatory firing of staff members.

On the basis of the grand jury questioning and testimony, several witnesses said they believe that the government has strong evidence against Bowen, a former White House associate counsel who heads the lead U.S. agency in charge of tracking fraud, waste and abuse of more than $21 billion in funds for Iraq reconstruction. "Based on what I saw, they should have a good case," said one key witness who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

Bowen's attorney, Bradford A. Berenson, said that based on conversations with prosecutors and witnesses who testified before the grand jury, he does not believe that the government has a case. A previous grand jury did not indict, although more recent allegations are more detailed and involve several staff members who had tried to help SIGIR correct its problems, according to several staffers interviewed.

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