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British investigators have finally started checking into MP George Galloway and his role in the Oil for Food scandal at the United Nations. The London Times reports that their diplomats have approached Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein, to see if he will talk about Galloway's relationship with the Hussein regime:
BRITISH diplomats in Baghdad have asked Tariq Aziz, Iraq’s former deputy prime minister, to help an investigation into allegations that George Galloway was given cash by Saddam Hussein under the Oil-for-Food programme.
The diplomats made the secret approach through Mr Aziz’s lawyer this week on behalf of Parliament’s so-called “sleaze buster”. The lawyer, Badie Izzat Arief, claimed that they offered to try and secure Mr Aziz immunity from prosecution on any charges arising from the Oil-for-Food scandal.
Embassy officials want to meet Mr Aziz, 70, in the US-run detention centre where he is held with other top members of Saddam’s regime to put a series of questions from Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
Sir Philip is investigating claims that the MP for Bethnal Green & Bow took money under the UN Oil-for-Food programme — a charge that Mr Galloway strenuously denies and about which he has already successfully sued and won damages from one national newspaper.
Galloway won a lawsuit against the London Telegraph for publishing the documents uncovered by the Coalition forces that showed him receiving oil futures for his efforts to support Saddam and opposition to military action. In the UK, truth is not an absolute defense to libel, and the paper lost on the basis of the damage the documents caused to Galloway's reputation. Since then, more evidence has been found of Galloway's corruption, and in January the Brits hauled off "thousands" of documents on the scandal and its relation to British politicians. At the time, the Guardian (UK) reported that the British would consider opening an investigation; apparently it took them longer than expected, but they have done so.
Galloway's reaction reflected the strange, contradictory, and combative nature of the Saddam shill himself. He noted that Aziz had had heart attacks, strokes, and been denied medical treatments, implying that Aziz would make a less-than-credible witness due to his Coalition-imposed infirmities. In the very next breath, he then proclaimed confidence that Aziz would clear him of all charges. Perhaps only such a confused and handicapped witness could do so.
Aziz, for his part, is not likely to cooperate. He has steadfastly refused to testify to Saddam's crimes, rejecting all arrangements for immunity for his cooperation. His lawyer tells reporters that Aziz's health is deteriorating, but the most interesting information to come from Aziz's counsel is that the British visit by investigators is their first since Aziz's surrender in April 2003. One has to wonder whether the British simply did not want to hear about backbencher complicity in Saddam's corruption if they have never bothered to ask about it.Sphere It View blog reactions
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