I didn’t have a chance yesterday to post Safire’s op-ed article, The Great Cash Cow, but I urge you to read it in its entirety,
Well-connected international traders — called “the usual suspects” by low-level U.N. staff, who knew they often fronted for sellers of luxury products — would make their deals, including kickbacks, in Baghdad. Letters of credit, as many as 150 a day, would be issued in New York by the U.N.’s favorite bank, BNP Paribas.
But before the sellers, called “beneficiaries,” could be paid (at Saddam’s request, in euros, harder to trace than dollars) the bank required a C.O.A., “Confirmation of Arrival,” from the U.N.’s contracted inspector, Cotecna of Switzerland.
“The key was Cotecna,” says my graveyard source. “Ships were lined up at the port of Umm Qasr, stacks of containers already onshore waiting for inspection. You won’t believe the grease being paid. The usual suspects got preferential treatment when the U.N. bosses in New York called the BNP bank to get Cotecna to issue a C.O.A. to release the money.”
Safire’s not giving up on this story.