Coleman: I Really Told You So

As I noted last week, Senator Norm Coleman had the last laugh on British MP George Galloway. The Parliament has handed down a rare rebuke and punishment on the raving Saddam Hussein supporter, suspending him for a month for his part in the Oil-For-Food scam at the UN, and later lying about it repeatedly. Coleman writes about the controversy and the Senate’s role in exposing Galloway in today’s Wall Street Journal:

The report relied heavily on evidence uncovered by my subcommittee, the U.N.’s investigation and the U.K. Charity Commission. But the Parliament report went further, even enlisting a forensic scientist to determine that other official Iraqi documents, which provide detailed descriptions of Mr. Galloway’s personal involvement in nefarious deals, were authentic. Moreover, the report reveals the official Iraqi minutes of a meeting between Mr. Galloway and Saddam in which Mr. Galloway overtly discusses Iraqi oil deals — the very deals he’s denied knowing about. According to the minutes, which have been authenticated by the Iraqi government, Mr. Galloway complained to Saddam that problems with oil prices are reducing “our income” and delaying “our dues.”
These documents should quash any notion that Mr. Galloway did not know about oil transactions and had no idea his wife and his political operation were receiving under-the-table money. In short, this report and the volumes of evidence presented in it appear to confirm that Mr. Galloway was neck-deep in Oil for Food deals and that his vociferous denials were nothing more than a web of misleading half-truths.
Mr. Galloway is already claiming that the Parliament’s report relies on fraudulent documents and mendacious witnesses. His shtick rings hollow. It is clear that he is putting up (to borrow his words) “the mother of all smokescreens.”
Consider that roughly six months after his Senate testimony, in October 2005, my subcommittee released another report presenting extensive evidence that Mr. Galloway’s testimony was filled with false or misleading statements. That evidence included bank records showing that his wife received $150,000 from an Oil for Food deal, and that the political operation he portrayed as a children’s charity received at least $446,000 from oil deals. Days later, the U.N.’s investigative committee revealed a different oil deal in which $120,000 went to Mr. Galloway’s wife, and other deals in which hundreds of thousands of dollars went to his political operation. …
At each point, Mr. Galloway has vehemently denied every accusation and all the evidence. But the record should be clear: Mr. Galloway appears to have been personally involved in oil deals under the Oil for Food program and indirectly — through his political operation and his wife — received hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result. The U.K. report exposes a fraud who personally benefited at the expense of the Iraqi people — the very people he was pretending to help.

We should all thank Senator Coleman for his hard work in persevering against the lies and manipulations of Saddam’s chief Western toady. Those who cheered Galloway in 2005 should reconsider whether their partisanship should really take priority over exposing corruption on behalf of genocidal maniacs.
UPDATE: MP, not PM — typed a little too fast. Thanks to CQ commenter kfarg for the correction.
UPDATE II: Delicious schadenfreude:

George Galloway, the Respect MP, was ordered out of the House of Commons last night during a debate on a motion to suspend him for 18 days over his alleged financial links to Saddam Hussein’s regime. …
Mr Galloway said the committee was a “politicised tribunal”. Mr Martin intervened repeatedly and as the MP was ordered from the chamber, he shouted that he would continue his speech outside for anyone who wanted to hear it.

Another UN Bribery Conviction

The Oil-for-Food Program continues to generate convictions against corrupt United Nations officials. The latest comes against Russian diplomat Vladimir Kuznetsov, who chaired a UN budget committee and used the procurement process to take in more that $300,000 in bribes:

Kuznetsov helped Alexander Yakovlev, who worked in the UN’s procurement office, pocket illegal payments from foreign companies seeking UN contracts.
Yakovlev pleaded guilty in 2005 to soliciting more than $1m in bribes and co-operated with authorities. He testified against Kuznetsov.
The procurement officer was the first UN official to face criminal charges over the scandal-hit oil-for-food programme to Iraq.

Kuznetsov could get 30 years in prison for his corruption, although he will likely get much less. The sentencing has been scheduled for June, which gives him plenty of time to spend what’s left of his bribe money on some character witnesses and sob stories.
Kuznetsov first got entangled in the OFF scandal in 2000. At that time, as head of the budget committee, Kuznetsov discovered the off-shore banking accounts that Yakovlev arranged to hold his increasing fortunes in payoffs. Rather than blow the whistle on corruption — a move apparently not encouraged by the Turtle Bay environment — Kuznetsov instead insisted on getting a piece of the action. As the chair of the budget committee, he certainly had plenty of access to the procurement processes and could set himself up to be enriched by them, an opportunity Kuznetsov did not allow to slip past.
Kuznetsov has interesting connections, too. He worked in the Russian Foreign Ministry at the same time that he held the position with the UN, according to the report at the time of his arrest. His conviction may allow for more information to flow about Vladimir Putin’s dealings with Saddam Hussein, including his interference on Saddam’s behalf at the UN Security Council for more than a decade.

Sweden Warned UN Of OFP Kickbacks, UN Shrugged

A new report from Sweden shows that the UN had full awareness of the Oil-For-Food program’s corruption, but chose to do nothing about it. The Swedish Foreign Ministry released a statement that claims the Swedish delegation brought the kickbacks to the attention of the UN sanctions committee in 2000:

An unidentified Swedish company informed the country’s embassy in Amman, Jordan, in 2000 that
Iraq was demanding 10 percent “fees” on all deals as a way to circumvent U.N. sanctions on Saddam’s regime, according to a Swedish Foreign Ministry document published on the Web site of Swedish Radio.
The document was sent from the embassy in Amman to the Foreign Ministry and Swedish delegation at the
United Nations in December 2000, Swedish Radio said.
The document stated clearly that the extra fees violated U.N. sanctions. But it was “clear that an open Swedish engagement in this issue would negatively affect other Swedish business opportunities” in Iraq, it said.
Anders Kruse, head of the Foreign Ministry’s legal division, said Sweden had forwarded the information to the U.N. committee in charge of sanctions and was told the extra fees were widely known.

Turtle Bay has long claimed ignorance of the problem until the 2003 invasion of Iraq produced reams of evidence of kickbacks and payoffs. Kofi Annan claimed that the UN didn’t audit the OFF program thoroughly enough and never had any awareness of the vast monies being kicked back to Saddam Hussein. This announcement by Sweden makes clear that the UN had both knowledge and evidence of the corruption and a pretty good idea of its scope, but declined to enforce its own sanctions against the dictator.
People who keep claiming that the UN had Saddam “in his box” should take note of this development. The UN had no interest in keeping Saddam in his box or anyone else’s, either. The program had no auditing and little oversight, and it existed to enrich Saddam even while he defied the organization that put money in his pockets. The billions of dollars that he collected from the “humanitarian” program went for more illicit military materiel and more firepower with which to oppress and tyrannize the Iraqi people.
Now the same organization that claimed to keep Saddam in check wants to push Israel aside and keep Hezbollah in check in Lebanon. Does anyone wonder why the Israelis show such great reluctance to accept that proposition?

UNSCAM Trial Starts Tomorrow In NY

The trial of Tongsun Park starts tomorrow in New York. The Times of London looks forward to revelations of links between Saddam Hussein and former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in one of the first UN Oil-For-Food trials:

LINKS between Boutros Boutros Ghali, the former UN Secretary-General, and an alleged agent for Saddam Hussein will come under the spotlight when the first American trial of a major figure in the Oil-for-Food scandal gets under way today.
The judge has ruled that prosecutors can present evidence of Dr Boutros Ghali’s relationship with Tongsun Park, a South Korean businessman on trial in New York for acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Saddam’s Iraq.
The North Korean-born Mr Park was dubbed “the oriental Gatsby” after he played a central role in the “Koreagate” bribery scandal in Washington in the 1970s, although the judge has ruled that evidence of that role is not relevant to this case.
Mr Park, 71, is accused of plotting to make pay-offs to two top UN officials to secure favourable terms for Iraq in the creation of the Oil-for-Food programme during the 1990s.

If CQ readers wonder why Boutros-Ghali has any connection to the notorious bribery figure of the 1970s, please refer to my post from last January when American officials arrested Park. As the London Telegraph reported back then, the FBI has evidence of Park attempting to give a million-dollar bribe to the former UN honcho:

The indictment, released on Friday, refers to attempts to buy the influence of two unnamed UN officials. A separate investigation – led by Paul Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman – into the scandal concluded that Mr Park and another accused man tried to pass $1 million to the former UN secretary-general, Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
The report said there was no evidence that Mr Boutros-Ghali received or agreed to receive the money. The Volcker commission also found that in 1997 Mr Park invested $1 million in a Canadian company linked to the son of Maurice Strong, a close aide to Kofi Annan, the current secretary-general, in an attempt to secure his help for Iraq. The report found no evidence that Mr Strong was involved.

Park’s trial may wind up giving us an interesting look into the UNSCAM machinations that have not yet been made public. Claudia Rosett will be all over this, of course.

Coleman, The Cat Who Laughed Last

Somewhere in Washington, Senator Norm Coleman has the satisfaction of the last laugh. After the Left proclaimed George Galloway the winner in his appearance before Coleman’s investigative committee on the UN Oil-for-Food scandal — mostly because Galloway was rude and arrogant, two popular qualities among the MoveOn crowd — Coleman patiently got Galloway to lie on record and under oath, ensuring that a case could be built against him for fraud and conspiracy. The Guardian (UK) reports today that the other shoe will drop in the next few days on the other side of the pond:

George Galloway faces the prospect of a criminal investigation into his activities by the serious fraud office, which has collected evidence relating to the oil-for-food corruption scandal in Iraq.
A four-strong SFO team returned from Washington with what a source close to US investigators calls “thousands of documents” about the scandal. The team is expected to produce, within the next four weeks, a report for the SFO director, Robert Wardle, as to whether a full criminal investigation should be mounted into UK individuals and companies involved, including Mr Galloway, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.
The SFO is following up two official reports published before Christmas in Washington, which detailed banking evidence that Mr Galloway’s wife and his political campaign organisation both received large sums from Saddam Hussein, laundered through under-the-counter oil allocations.
Mr Galloway is unaware of the SFO’s activities. He is in the Channel 4 TV show Celebrity Big Brother and cut off from outside contact. He is expected to be evicted from the Big Brother house tonight.

Galloway way pull off quite a feat; he might go from the Big Brother house to the big house in a short period of time.
The Guardian also reports that the Telegraph may use the information to appeal its latest loss on Galloway’s libel case against them to the Lords, and that the Washington investigation may soon force Parliament to reopen its review of Galloway’s ethics as a member of the Commons.
Galloway may believe that he won some sort of battle against his critics and the Bush administration by appearing before Congress and bluffing his way through questioning by responding with lies and accusations, but in the end all he proved was that politicians who break the law act exactly like … anyone else who breaks the law. Some people were just dumb enough to fall for his act.

Another Arrest In UNSCAM

The FBI arrested a South Korean businessman that reportedly has been trying to reach a deal with federal investgators in return for testimony on the Oil-for-Food scandal. Tongsun Park apparently reached that deal late last week and will begin outlining his involvement in UN corruption and bribery:

The indictment, released on Friday, refers to attempts to buy the influence of two unnamed UN officials. A separate investigation – led by Paul Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman – into the scandal concluded that Mr Park and another accused man tried to pass $1 million to the former UN secretary-general, Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
The report said there was no evidence that Mr Boutros-Ghali received or agreed to receive the money. The Volcker commission also found that in 1997 Mr Park invested $1 million in a Canadian company linked to the son of Maurice Strong, a close aide to Kofi Annan, the current secretary-general, in an attempt to secure his help for Iraq. The report found no evidence that Mr Strong was involved.
“Park’s arrest is an important step in the federal government’s efforts to bring to justice those who broke US law in undermining the humanitarian purpose of that programme,” said Michael Garcia, the US attorney in Manhattan.
He said Mr Park arranged meetings in 1993 between himself, a UN official and another co-operating witness, including one at the official’s Manhattan apartment. Mr Park and the other witness also allegedly arranged a meeting in 1993, in Geneva, between the official, identified as “UN Official No 1”, and two Iraqi representatives.
The FBI said in a court document that at a New York restaurant in 1996 the government witness met Mr Park, an Iraqi official and another high-ranking figure (referred to as “UN Official No 2”), who left the meeting early.

While the Volcker Report gives the public some good information on the scope and nature of the corruption at Turtle Bay, clearly it has done nothing to resolve it. The parallel investigation by the United States, meanwhile, has resulted in several guilty pleas by some smaller fish and secured their testimony on the actions of the big fish. The methodical and relentless pursuit of the corrupt has already demonstrated what a joke the so-called “containment” of Saddam Hussein became, as his jailers over time readily and greedily became his co-conspirators, while UN executive management either did nothing to stop it or, more likely, took part in its profitability.
Now we have Boutros Boutros-Ghali on the hook. Kofi Annan has to wonder when his turn is coming.

Will India’s Government Fall Over OFF?

The Indian government, under the Congress Party, may fall due to connections described in the Volcker Report on the Oil-For-Food program. The AFP reports that a key minister faces parliamentary ire for his corruption by Saddam Hussein, and that the ruling party’s blocking of parliamentary procedure may create a backlash among MPs:

India’s opposition piled pressure on the government in parliament over new charges that the former foreign minister and the ruling Congress party joined a scam to profit from the UN oil-for-food programme in
Trouble erupted within minutes of parliament assembling as MPs belonging to the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) jumped to their feet to demand the resignation of ex-foreign minister Natwar Singh, now serving as cabinet minister without portfolio.
Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said the opposition could discuss later the new charges that Singh and the Congress party received special vouchers to purchase oil cheaply from Baghdad in 2001 in return for political support.
But the opposition, whose campaign to embarrass the government in parliament fell short last week, voiced determination to capitalise on the disclosures about the scandal made on Friday by Congress insider Anil Matherani.
Chatterjee first adjourned the parliamentary session for 30 minutes, then till later in the afternoon and finally for the day.

Singh served as foreign minister for India during the latter years of Saddam’s rule; he crafted and delivered the policy of opposition to the war on Iraq. Now, as Volcker has revealed, we all know he received over four million barrels of oil. Not only did Singh himself received that sum, but also the ruling Congress Party itself got a similar allotment of Iraqi oil. It looks like a payoff, and a profitable one at that.
Now CP wants to shut down the Indian parliament to keep debate from returning to accountability on why Saddam would have given Indian government officials that much oil. I doubt that will create a particularly trustful atmosphere for the government. Indians will not long resist the urge to toss out the executive and hold new elections, if that’s what it takes to get answers to these questions. Expect the CP to stop its obstructionism and offer up some sacrificial lambs, and quickly, before momentum builds to replace the CP with others less involved in Saddam’s corruption.

Volcker Report: UN Needs Better Oversight After Massive Fraud

The Volcker Commission’s report on the Oil-for-Food Program (OFF) will castigate the UN for allowing billions of dollars to flow into Saddam’s pockets through its incompetence and corruption, sources throughout the media report today. It lets Kofi Annan off the hook, at least for now, but specifically points out the sweetheart deals that his son got for the little amount of work he performed, calling into question the connection between that and the Secretary-General’s performance. The Washington Post tells its readers that Annan says Saddam made him do it:

Volcker’s new report will sharply criticize Annan’s oversight of the oil program as lax, citing “serious instances of illicit, unethical, and corrupt behavior” by U.N. officials under his watch. The report will draw attention to administrative shortcomings by the nine U.N. humanitarian agencies, including the U.N. Development Program and Habitat, the main housing agency. It also will accuse the 15-nation Security Council of providing “uncertain, wavering direction” to U.N. officials running the program. “Neither the Security Council nor the Secretariat leadership was clearly in command,” the preface states.
Annan conceded in an interview with the BBC on Monday that “mistakes were made” in managing the program, but he insisted that there were “concessions that had to be made to get Saddam Hussein to agree.”
“I accept responsibility for inadequacies and failures,” he told the BBC. But “when it comes to Iraq, on this issue, no one is entirely covered in glory. . . . Honestly, I wish we had never been given that program, and I wish the U.N. will never be asked to undertake that kind of program again.”

That would be a switch. At the time, and all the way through the Iraq war, Annan and the rest of the UN-ophiles have claimed that only Turtle Bay had the moral authority for this kind of program and for the “containment” of Saddam Hussein. We have heard nothing but endless assertions that the “unilateral” actions of the US/UK coalition to enforce the terms of the cease-fire and sanctions defy international law and that the entire effort should return to the UN. Now Annan wants to wash his hands of enforcing any kind of santions regime? Does he want to explicitly make the UN into a League of Nations debating society?
Perhaps he just wants to make it into a social club for diplomats. After all, his family certainly enjoys the perks:

The Volcker panel singled out Annan’s son, Kojo, for abusing diplomatic privileges extended to his father. The report claims that Kojo Annan received a $3,000 loan in 1998 to buy a $39,00 Mercedes-Benz from an executive of a Swiss company, Cotecna, that was trying to do business with the United Nations through the oil-for-food program, according to a member of Volcker’s staff.
The report will also assert that Kojo Annan obtained thousands of dollars in diplomatic benefits — including breaks on taxes and customs fees — from the transaction by falsely claiming that he was purchasing the car for his father, according to the staff member.

Volcker’s report also dismisses the Annan contention, oft repeated by himself as well as his allies, that the entire scandal has no basis in fact, and that it only represents an attack from conservative politcians on the UN itself. The London Telegraph has the specific language of the report that rejects the vast right-wing conspiracy defense:

and his senior staff that they were the victims of a politically motivated campaign by Right-wing politicians and journalists.
The report states: “As the years passed, reports spread of waste, inefficiency, and corruption even within the UN itself. Some was rumour and exaggeration, but much, too much, of it has turned out to be true.”
The UN will be described as ill-equipped to handle the huge oil-for-food programme and “even programmes of a lesser scope”.
It notes that Mr Annan is well respected at the UN but said the organisation urgently required stronger leadership, administrative reform and better auditing.

The report will present the strongest repudiation yet of Annan’s leadership at Turtle Bay. It won’t result in Annan’s resignation, nor will it create a groundswell of demand for it among the General Assembly, which might give the best argument for its dissolution. If the organization cannot provide some kind of method for holding its management accountable for such widespread corruption and incompetence, then it really should fold its tent and disband altogether in favor of a replacement that has true checks and balances on power.
Remember too that Volcker served at Annan’s pleasure. The US probes have done better — they’ve actually caught and convicted two of the perpetrators of the fraud Volcker describes in his report. More arrests will occur as the former diplomats start talking about where all the money went. The Volcker report gives us a point of reference, but will be far from the last word on the subject.

UNSCAM Probe Nets Another Russian

Reuters and the AP report on the second US arrest resulting from probes into the UN Oil-For-Food financial scandal. Police arrested Vladimir Kuznetsov after Kofi Annan withdrew his diplomatic immunity earlier today, joining Alexander Yakovlev in the klink for money laundering and bribery:

Vladimir Kuznetsov, a Russian Foreign Ministry official and the elected chairman of the U.N. General Assembly’s budget advisory committee, was taken into custody by the FBI, Russian and U.S. officials said.
Kuznetsov later appeared in federal district court in khaki shorts and a green shirt and pleaded innocent.
The court offered to release him only if he could post a $1.5 million bond co-signed by three financially worthy parties and secured by $500,000 in properties and cash.
Even if released, he would remain under house arrest with an electronic monitoring device.
The arrest was only the latest scandal plaguing the world body following allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the defunct $64 billion U.N. oil-for-food program for Iraq, and a senior procurement officer’s admission he had demanded illegal payments from would-be U.N. contractors.

It appears that Yakovlev has talked with investigators, a suspicion I had when authorities arrested him and just as quickly bailed him out. Note the difference between the bond conditions as described in this article. Yakovlev got out on a standard bail arrangement, albeit for $400K. Kuznetsov has to put up a third of his $1.5 million in cash or securities, with three underwriters, and still wear the Martha Stewart signature model electronic anklet.
The continuing Russian connections to the program also bears attention. Kuznetsov wasn’t just some flunky at Turtle Bay — he headed an important General Assembly committee and worked for Vladimir Putin in the foreign office. Russia supported France in the 2003 showdown over whether to remove Saddam Hussein by force. Only after we toppled him in three weeks did we find out the extent to which Russia had performed an end-run around the sanctions regime it argued to continue instead of using force.
This arrest causes one to wonder whether Putin or his government have more to do with UNSCAM than first thought. Yakovlev only had tenuous ties to the Putin regime, while Kuznetsov has much stronger connections to the autocratic former KGB chief. His credentials may lead to the discovery of more reasons why the Russians backed the French use of its veto when it came to holding Saddam accountable for his refusal to comply with sixteen UN Security Council resolutions.
Addendum: The Washington Post includes this choice tidbit:

The latest arrest comes less than two weeks before a Sept. 14 summit that will draw more than 170 world leaders to U.N. headquarters to address, among other issues, management gaps that allowed corruption to occur. A senior U.S. official said it was too soon to determine whether the case “would help or hinder” U.S efforts to strike agreement on a proposal to impose greater independent oversight of U.N. spending.
The Bush administration is facing intense resistance from Russia, China and the “Group of 77” developing countries to proposals aimed at strengthening outside scrutiny of the United Nations’ books. The Russian government, meanwhile, has vigorously opposed a U.N. reorganization plan that would undercut the power of Kuznetsov’s committee.

Interestingly, the Post buries this story on page A27. I wonder why?

Yakovlev Under Arrest; Pleads Guilty

CNN has a flash report that a former UN official named in the Oil-For-Food scandal has pled guilty to money-laundering and conspiracy charges in New York. Earlier today, CNN also reported that Alexander Yakovlev had his diplomatic immunity lifted by the UN and had been arrested shortly afterwards:

A former U.N. procurement officer apparently has been arrested in connection with allegations he solicited bribes from companies seeking oil-for-food contracts, an aide to Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday.
U.N. officials lifted Alexander Yakovlev’s diplomatic immunity at the request of a U.S. prosecutor in New York, and “we believe Mr. Yakovlev is already in custody,” Mark Malloch Brown, Annan’s chief of staff, told reporters.
Yakovlev, a senior procurement officer for the United Nations, resigned in June amid allegations that he helped get his son a job with a firm doing business with the world body.

Yakovlev came to light six weeks ago, when documents procured by Fox News showed that he had directed business to a firm that employed his son Dmitry. The Yakovlev family connection followed that of the Annans in providing structural support for contract awards to favored firms. Dmitry, like Kojo Annan, prospered under his father’s consistent direction of UN contracts to his employer, IHC, and often worked on those contracts directly — a major violation of UN regulations.
If Yakovlev has pled guilty this quickly to an American indictment, it might mean that he wants to cut a deal. How often does a defendant plead out within hours of his arrest? He may have enough documentation and personal knowledge of the scams to cause many sleepless nights for Benon Sevan and Kofi Annan — and perhaps a few indictments for them as well.
I thought Sevan protested a bit too loudly. This may well be the other shoe dropping.
UPDATE: It’s Yakovlev:

A former U.N. procurement officer pleaded guilty to money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy charges Monday after the United Nations stripped him of his diplomatic immunity, federal prosecutors said. …
Earlier, Paul Volcker, the head of the U.N.’s Independent Inquiry Committee, announced that the probe found that Yakovlev solicited a bribe from a French company that bid unsuccessfully on an oil-for-food contract.
The report found no evidence the company paid the desired bribe — but it found that more than $1.3 million had been wired to a bank account Yakovlev controlled on the Caribbean island of Antigua since 2000.

Volcker apparently nailed a hide to the wall, and one that means something. What surprises me is the speed in which Yakovlev pled out. Something big looks like it will break at Turtle Bay. Annan had better hope that Yakovlev hasn’t started talking, because is he has, Annan may well find himself the next UN official to lose his diplomatic immunity. Watch for Annan to move to Brazil or another non-extradition country if that happens.