Fugitive Iraqi Cabinet Minister Ayham al-Samaraie Surfaces in Jordan

A former Iraqi Cabinet minister who escaped from a Baghdad prison this month has arrived in Jordan, Jordan's prime minister said Tuesday.

"Ayham al-Samaraie who escaped from his jail in Baghdad arrived in Amman as an American and on an American plane," Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit told reporters.

Al-Samaraie, a former minister of electricity with dual U.S. and Iraqi citizenship, was serving time for corruption when he escaped mid-December. On Dec. 19, he called the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times and gloated over his escape, referring to U.S. and Iraqi officials in Baghdad as "suckers."

He declined to tell the newspapers where he was, but said he was in a "a very safe place."

"Jordan did not receive any demand from the Iraqi authorities" for al-Samaraie's extradition, al-Bakhit said.

Al-Samaraie told the New York Times he had managed to leave Iraq on a flight from Baghdad International Airport.

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The prime minister did not elaborate on al-Samaraie's escape, but by "American plane" he appeared to be referring to a U.S. military plane.

The spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Lou Fintor, said Tuesday that the U.S. government was not involved in al-Samaraie's escape "in any way." He denied in "unequivocal terms" the claim that al-Samaraie flew out of Iraq on an American plane.

"There is absolutely no truth to this. The U.S. government was not involved in any way. This is absolutely incorrect, absolutely false," Fintor said.

Al-Samaraie told the newspapers it was easy to board a plane.

"So why I cannot take the airport? It's not because I am a smart cookie. Any Iraqi can do it," he was quoted as saying.

Al-Samaraie said a "multinational" group helped him to escape "the Chicago way" — a reference to the film about Al Capone called "The Untouchables."

Fintor said the Iraqi government was investigating al-Samaraie's escape, "and we are vigorously supporting their effort."

Asked whether al-Samaraie, who has a home in Chicago, would be allowed to return to the United States as a free person, Fintor referred The Associated Press to the Department of Homeland Security.

In 2003, al-Samaraie became a member of the transitional Iraqi government set up after U.S.-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. In August he was detained, convicted of corruption and sentenced to two years imprisonment.

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