The Oil-For-Food program allowed Saddam Hussein to embezzle at least $21.3 billion in oil money during 12 years. This Oil-for-food money paid bombers’ kin
Saddam Hussein diverted money from the U.N. oil-for-food program to pay millions of dollars to families of Palestinian suicide bombers who carried out attacks on Israel, say congressional investigators who uncovered evidence of the money trail.
The former Iraqi president tapped secret bank accounts in Jordan — where he collected bribes from foreign companies and individuals doing illicit business under the humanitarian program — to reward the families up to $25,000 each, investigators told The Associated Press
Friends of Saddam points out that the “9/11 Commission didn’t even bother to trace the money trails of terrorist finance that led to the catastrophe three years ago, calling the question one of little practical significance”.
Presently, “The head of an independent panel investigating alleged corruption in the now-defunct U.N. oil-for-food program for Iraq rejected on Tuesday a request to immediately turn over evidence that he has gathered to U.S. congressional investigators. Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker instead pledged to make virtually all the evidence public at his own pace, beginning early in 2005.’ The US House of Representatives International Relations Committee today holds a hearing that will focus on BNP-Paribas, the French bank that handled most of the money for the program: “An audit by a U.S. regulatory agency of a small sample of transactions out of the $60 billion U.N. escrow account managed by BNP-Paribas has raised serious questions over the bank’s compliance with U.S. money laundering laws, the investigators said.” Evidence seems to indicate that “payments in the oil-for-food program were made by BNP at times with a lack of full proof of delivery for goods and other necessary documents.” There certainly are reports that the U.N. deserted leads in oil-for-food investigation: “A private intelligence firm hired by the United Nations to look into corruption in the oil-for-food program provided valuable leads to U.N. investigators, but they were ignored, the company’s director says
Mr. Baldwin said new information related to the U.N. oil-for-food program uncovered by the company includes:
•A network of Iranians who were involved in smuggling oil under the U.N. program.
•Connections between the U.N. program and a French organized crime figure who U.S. officials said was a conduit for oil-for-food-related payments to French President Jacques Chirac.
•Information on the Swiss-based company Cotecna, which was involved in border inspections of oil-for-food goods. Cotecna at one point during the oil-for-food program hired Mr. Annan’s son as a consultant.
•Data on the activities of an Egyptian oil broker who took part in illegal activities related to the oil-for-food program.”
It won’t be the first time Chirac’s name comes up: on April 2003, Safire was writing about it in the NY Times and in The International Herald Tribune.
Today Claudia Rosett asks, Come Clean, Kofi and explains how it happened under Kofi’s watch
,Once Mr. Annan became secretary-general, he lost little time in getting deeply involved with Oil for Food. In October 1997, just 10 months into the job, he transformed what had begun as an ad hoc, temporary relief measure into the Office of the Iraq Program, an entrenched U.N. department, which reported to him directly–and was eliminated only after the U.S.-led coalition, against Mr. Annan’s wishes, deposed Saddam. To run Oil for Food, Mr. Annan picked Benon Sevan (now alleged to have received oil money from Saddam, which he denies) and kept him there until the program ended about six years later.
Mr. Annan’s reorganization of Oil for Food meant a nontrivial change in the trajectory of the program. All the signs are that Saddam immediately took the cue that he could now start gaming the program with impunity–and Mr. Annan did not prove him wrong. Within the month, Saddam had created the first crisis over the U.N. weapons inspectors, who were supposed to be part of the sanctions and Oil for Food package. Mr. Annan’s response was not to throttle back on Oil for Food but to go before the Security Council a few months later and urge that Baghdad be allowed to import oil equipment along with the food and medicine to which the program had been initially limited. This set the stage for the ensuing burst in Saddam’s oil production, kickbacks, surcharges and smuggling.
Mr. Annan then flew to Baghdad for a private powwow with Saddam and returned to declare that this was a man he could do business with. The weapons inspectors returned to Iraq for a short spell, but by the end of 1998, Saddam had evicted them for the next four years. Mr. Annan, however, went right on doing business. And big business it was, however humanitarian in name. Under the Oil for Food deal, Mr. Annan’s Secretariat pulled in a 2.2% commission on Saddam’s oil sales, totaling a whopping $1.4 billion over the life of the program, to cover the costs of supervising Saddam. Yet somehow the Secretariat never found the funding to fully meter oil shipments, ensure full inspections of all goods entering Iraq, or catch the pricing scams that by the new estimates of Senate investigators let Saddam rake in $4.4 billion in kickbacks on relief contracts.
Mr. Annan and his aides would also have us believe that Oil for Food had nothing to do with Saddam’s smuggling of oil–which generated the lion’s share of his illicit income. But it was only after Oil for Food geared up that Saddam’s oil smuggling really took off, totaling $13.6 billion during his entire 12 years between wars, but with more than two-thirds of that–an estimated $9.7 billion–earned during the era of Oil for Food. Those were precisely the years in which Mr. Annan repeatedly went to bat to enable Saddam, under Oil for Food, to import the equipment to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure, whence came all that smuggled oil.
In the face of all this, Roger asks,
Suppose the US had not invaded Iraq and the Oil-for-Food scam had continued apace, netting billions a year for Saddam and his cohorts? What would that money have been used for? Well, probably some variation of what it had always been used for — castles, cars, planes and more and more weapons of all kinds, some manufactured and some bought, distributed to Saddam and his allies. Soon enough the already fat spigots would expand (with UN endorsement, no doubt) and the gush of money increase. Think about that in light of the brain dead, self-immolating incantation of “No WMDs!” offered us by the self-described left as justification for their naive isolationism. A cash flow like that provided by UNSCUM could finance enough WMDs to destroy the world many times over with the resources to hide them simultaneously under practically every sand dune from Mongolia to the Mojave (they probably already have). Left alone, the United Nations and Saddam would have put civilization in tremendous jeopardy. Sound exaggerated? Think about it. The UN Oil-for-Food Scandal was justification by itself to invade Iraq – far more than enough.
There’s a lot more on the scandal, but Roger gets the heart of the matter. A Barcepundit commenter points out that $23b = the GDP of a small country like Peru, or 2.5% of the GDP or a larger country, like Spain.
There’s more to this story. As Fox News said, Corruption Spreads Outward, and there’s much else we don’t know about yet. Will the entire story ever surface?