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February 16, 2005
UN Oil Inspector Took Bribe, Came Cheap

CNN reports that the Senate investigation into the Oil-For-Food scandal has unearthed evidence that at least one UN oil inspector was on the take. Armando Carlos Oliveira worked for Saybolt, one of OFF's main contractors, and put over $100,000 of illicit payoffs in his pocket while allowing Saddam's regime to smuggle oil out the door:

The Senate Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released documents alleging that the inspector for Saybolt, a Dutch company hired to monitor approved Iraqi oil shipments from 1996 to 2003, enabled Saddam's regime to sell $9 million worth of oil outside the program.

"We have found disturbing evidence that one of the U.N. oil monitors -- the individuals hired by the U.N. to inspect the oil exports from Iraq under the OFF Program -- took a bribe," said subcommittee chairman Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican.

Coleman named Armando Carlos Oliveira, 46, a Portuguese national, as the rogue inspector who received a $105,819 payment, about 2 percent of the value of the oil smuggled in two illicit shipments in 2001.

Saybolt attorney John Denson told the subcommittee that this is the first time Saybolt learned the specifics of the alleged bribe of Oliveira, who is still a Saybolt employee.

First, one has to wonder about the small change that this represents. In a program where $10 billion or more may have disappeared from the Iraqis who starved instead, finding a single payoff of $100K seems like a small detail. It's 2% of the value that Oliveira allowed onto the black market, hardly a worthy agency fee. Actually, I find that quite encouraging. For one thing, criminal cases are built on such transactions, and lower-echelong witnesses come forward as a result with more information about larger payoffs up the line. Second, the detail shows that the Senate panel headed by our own Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman gets results and is making good progress. Many of these panels wind up holding public hearings and wind up accomplishing nothing.

Oliveira refused to comment, telling CNN that his company had ordered him to remain silent. Likely, that order would hold if the Volcker Commission came around asking questions. As so many have pointed out already, having a panel with subpoena power makes a lot of difference in an investigation, and having a probe that doesn't answer to the man in charge of the corrupt organization also has its benefits.

In other news, Coleman demanded yesterday that the UN strip Benon Sevan of his diplomatic immunity so that he can be subpoenaed for testimony:

Citing Iraq Oil Ministry documents, Senate subcommittee investigators say that Sevan, not AMEP, received allocations for 9.3 million barrels worth $1.2 million.

"Did Benon Sevan personally receive oil allocations from the Hussein regime? A review of the evidence will suggest that the answer to that question is 'yes,'" Coleman said.

"I call upon Secretary-General Kofi Annan to strip Mr. Sevan of his diplomatic immunity so that he will be available for judicial process," Coleman said.

Nine days ago, Annan said he would comply with any such request, after the initial release of Volcker's interim report. Now Annan has his chance. If he refuses, we need to demand his resignation, and now rather than later. Shielding Sevan from the US Senate investigation would confirm that the rot at Turtle Bay went past Sevan -- and the only place that means is the Secretary-General himself.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 16, 2005 10:17 AM

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» Armando Carlos Oliveira of Saybolt from Myopic Zeal
Some interesting developments in the Oil for Food scandal came out yesterday. The Senate Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released documents alleging that the inspector for Saybolt, a Dutch company hired to monitor appro... [Read More]

Tracked on February 17, 2005 6:00 AM

» Talk about a sieve from INCITE
OK, there were two really simple components to the UN's Oil-for-Food program: oil goes out, food & medicine go in. Really simple right? If Saddam wanted to cheat, there'd be two key ways to do it: by smuggling out oil to sell on the black market, and... [Read More]

Tracked on February 17, 2005 2:06 PM

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