View Full Version : UN Complains Over Iraq Oil Scandal

07 May 04,, 23:36
UN complains it's already "tried and convicted" over Iraq oil scandal

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The United Nations (news - web sites) complained that it had already been "tried and convicted" by the media in the burgeoning fraud and bribery scandal over its Iraqi oil-for-food programme.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (news - web sites)'s spokesman lashed out just a day after the head of a new inquiry into the programme ruled out making public any documents about the case.

"I resent the allegation of a coverup. There's been a lot of irresponsible charges made in the media over the last several weeks about the United Nations," spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

"We've been essentially tried and convicted in the press on the basis of virtually no evidence."

The programme, which ran from December 1996 until November 2003, supervised oil sales by Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime so that the money went to buy humanitarian supplies to try to offset international sanctions.

But a Baghdad newspaper in January published the names of more than 200 people it said had appeared on an Iraqi oil ministry list as having received payoffs from the regime.

Meanwhile the US government says the regime may have pocketed more than 10 billion dollars.

The reports have rekindled media interest in the programme, which had long been rumoured to be rife with mismanagement.

Journalists have been pressing for the release of internal audits of the programme, which oversaw tens of billions of dollars in contracts.

The US Congress and some Iraqi leaders have also asked the United Nations to release documents. Paul Volcker, who is heading a new probe into oil-for-food, said Thursday those documents would remain confidential.

Last month, a US television network reported that oil-for-food director Benon Sevan and two other top UN officials had been paid off by Saddam's regime. Sevan has denied any wrongdoing.

The scandal threatens UN credibility in Iraq (news - web sites) at a critical time for the world body, which is trying to help set up an interim government in Baghdad and is mulling a major return to the country.

A report into the August bombing of the UN's headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 people, found that UN officials had underestimated the anger felt by Iraqis at the United Nations.

Original Story (http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1514&u=/afp/20040507/wl_mideast_afp/un_iraq_oil_media_040507203424&printer=1)

07 May 04,, 23:37


May 7, 2004 -- WASHINGTON - The United Nations has sent a stern letter to an important witness in the Iraq oil-for-food investigation, demanding that he not cooperate with congressional probes of the scandal, The Post has learned.
The letter - in the name of oil-for-food program chief Benon Sevan - was sent to a U.N. consultant after it was learned he had been talking to congressional investigators about allegations of wholesale corruption, officials said last night.

"This particular individual is someone we have been in contact with for more than a month," said an investigator. "This letter has chilled his willingness to cooperate with the congressional investigation. This individual also appears to be genuinely frightened by the implications inherent in the letter."

Congressional officials would not identify the consultant because he is a potential whistleblower.

The U.N. letter, obtained by The Post, reminded the consultant that under his contract with the oil-for-food program, he "may not communicate at any time to any other person, government or authority external to the United Nations any information known to them by reason of their association with the United Nations, which has not been made public."

"In view of the contractual provisions referred to above and the fact that these matters relate to internal U.N. procedures for administering the Programme, we would ask that you consult with the U.N. before releasing any documentation or information," the letter said.

It is the third letter to surface this week from Sevan's office to companies that did business with the oil-for-food program that invoked confidentiality agreements and demanded that they not release documents to outside investigators.

U.N. spokesmen have said this week that the letters are following standard legal procedure and that U.N. lawyers want all documents to be collected by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who was appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to head an investigation into the scandal. But the letters have ignited a firestorm.

"These confidentiality agreements are fueling a perception on the Hill that the U.N. is deliberately seeking to thwart a congressional inquiry into these allegations," said one congressional investigator.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), whose subcommittee is one of three congressional committees investigating the scandal, noted this week that his panel recently heard sworn testimony that Sevan accepted sweetheart oil deals from Saddam Hussein's government.

"It would be a big mistake, I think, for him to suggest that people not cooperate in this investigation. It would further imply that he is totally mixed up in this," Shays said.

The United Nations has said Sevan, who is on vacation pending retirement, was not the author of the letters. They were drawn up by U.N. lawyers and sent out on his stationery.

Original Story (http://www.nypost.com/news/worldnews/20349.htm)

07 May 04,, 23:40
The Long, Slow, Sad, Oil-For-Food Ridden Death Of The United Nations

Jackson Murphy, 05/06/04

When you’ve lost Canada as major supporter have you not lost the whole world? The United Nations is having a pretty bad couple of months. But the bold statement of facts by the Canadian Prime Minister that the institution itself needs serious reform is nothing compared to the growing evidence that the U.N. administered oil-for-food program was a boondoggle worthy of the names “Oil-for-Palaces” and UNSCAM.

In the handy scandal meter, this one takes the cake and as Glenn Reynolds notes, “dwarfs anything involving Enron or Martha Stewart.” The only problem is that the scandal isn’t as easy to understand as those media scandal favorites. It involves a favorite institution, the U.N., and it helps to build a case why eliminating Saddam Hussein from the Middle East was a necessity, weapons of mass destruction or not-both hard concepts for many to swallow.

The short version of the Oil-for-Food scandal is that the U.N. let Saddam Hussein draw up his own rules, contacts, and business deals. Then U.N. then did all it could to either cover up the transactions and accounts, or worse, allow Hussein to operate without any real supervision at all. The program, whose intentions were supposed to be humanitarian, ended up empowering Saddam Hussein with both money and influence while the U.N. was paid a handsome commission by Saddam to ‘supervise’.

“In tallying various leaked lists, disturbing leads and appalling exposés to date, what becomes ever more clear is that Oil-for-Food quickly became a global maze of middlemen, shell companies, fronts and shadowy connections, all blessed by the U.N.,” writes Claudia Rosett in The Wall Street Journal’s Opinionjournal.com. “From this labyrinth, via kickbacks on underpriced oil and overpriced goods, Saddam extracted, by conservative estimates of the General Accounting Office, at least $4.4 billion in graft, plus an additional $5.7 billion on oil smuggled out of Iraq. Meanwhile, Mr. Annan's Secretariat shrugged and rang up its $1.4 billion in Iraqi oil commissions for supervising the program. Worse, the GAO notes that anywhere from $10 billion to as much as $40 billion may have been socked away in secret by Saddam's regime. The assumption so far has been that most of the illicit money flowed back to Saddam in the form of fancy goods and illicit arms.”

With such a lucrative scheme at stake three members of the U.N. Security Council – Russia, France, and China – asked only that the program be expanded. So how did it work and why was it so lucrative to these nations?

Rosett, writing this time in Commentary magazine, says, “It worked like this. Saddam would sell at below-market prices to his hand-picked customers—the Russians and the French were special favorites—and they could then sell the oil to third parties at a fat profit. Part of this profit they would keep, part they would kick back to Saddam as a ‘surcharge,’ paid into bank accounts outside the UN program, in violation of UN sanctions.”

There is a scene in one of the recent James Bond movies, “The World Is Not Enough,” where Bond says, “If you can't trust a Swiss banker, then what's the world coming to?” The parallel here, for many people, would be if you can’t trust the United Nations to run a simple humanitarian program with a ruthless dictator, then what’s the world coming to?

This is why it has taken so long for the facts to come out about this scandal. Instinctively people trust the U.N. While it seems that the program did actually get some aid to the people of Iraq, the cost, and subsequent tarnish to the U.N.’s reputation, could not have been worth it.

The only reason we really know any of this, is that the regime of Saddam Hussein is no more. In fact if the U.N., France, Russia, and China had their way, Saddam would still be in power and the Oil-for-Food program would still be in operation today. That is the saddest and most scandalous parts of the whole story. Rather than once and for all getting rid of Saddam, to cut him out as the shady middleman between the oil and cash, the U.N. chose a path contrary to its own principles.

The irony is that the institution charged with, among other things, promoting “social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” ended up being seduced by nothing more than a brutal tyrant with a pipeline of seemingly endless cash. No wonder none of them wanted to go to war.

It is no wonder that even Canada, long defender and champion of the U.N., is now advocating reform of existing global institutions and proposing some new outlets, such as a G20 Leaders Forum, to help deal with the world’s problems. When you’ve lost Canada as a cheerleader, you know that the U.N., rightly, is in serious trouble.

Original Story (http://www.americandaily.com/item/5595)