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April 21, 2004
ABC: Oil-For-Food Corruption at Highest Levels

ABC News continues its excellent series on the United Nations Oil-For-Food program, which descended into a massive scam that netted Saddam Hussein -- supposedly the target of the sanctions that prompted the program -- more than $10 billion, and apparently lined the pockets of many others at the UN (via Instapundit):

At least three senior United Nations officials are suspected of taking multi-million dollar bribes from the Saddam Hussein regime, U.S. and European intelligence sources tell ABCNEWS. One year after his fall, U.S. officials say they have evidence, some in cash, that Saddam diverted to his personal bank accounts approximately $5 billion from the United Nations Oil-for-Food program.

This story has bounced around for a while since January, when ABC produced a list of people, some of whom ran the program and some of whom actively blocked UN enforcement of resolutions against Iraq. What ABC has now is independent evidence of the money trail, and it leads directly to the UN:

Investigators say the smoking gun is a letter to former Iraqi oil minister Amer Mohammed Rasheed, obtained by ABCNEWS and not yet in the hands of the United Nations. In the letter, dated Aug, 10, 1998, an Iraqi oil executive mentions a request by a Panama-based company, African Middle East Petroleum Co., to buy Iraqi oil along with a suggestion that Sevan had a role in the deal. "Mr. Muwafaq Ayoub of the Iraqi mission in New York informed us by telephone that the abovementioned company is the company that Mr. Sevan cited to you during his last trip to Baghdad," the executive wrote in Arabic.

A handwritten note indicated that permission for the oil purchase was granted by "the Vice President of the Republic" on Aug. 15, 1998.

The second page of the letter contains a table entitled "Quantity of Oil Allocated and Given to Mr. Benon Sevan." The table lists a total of 7.3 million barrels of oil as the "quantity executed" an amount that, if true, would have generated an illegal profit of as much as $3.5 million.

"Somebody who is running the Oil-for-Food program for the United Nations should not be receiving any benefit of any kind from a rogue dictator who was perpetuating terror in his country," said Hankes-Drielsma.

Read the whole thing. This story will explode in the next few weeks, and the UN involvement in Iraq along with it. Those arguing for the UN's moral imprimatur on any new Iraqi government are only pressing for continued corruption in an area that can't afford it any longer.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 21, 2004 6:23 AM

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Tracked on April 21, 2004 9:22 AM



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