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'Kofigate' threatens US aims in Iraq'

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  • Reality Ausetkmt
    ... wrote: World Terrorism & Security posted April 22, 2004, UN s oil-for-food scandal comes at a bad time for transition of authority. -- by
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 26, 2004
      --- In MarcusMosiahGarvey@yahoogroups.com, "noination"
      <noination@y...> wrote:
      World> Terrorism & Security
      posted April 22, 2004,

      UN's oil-for-food scandal comes at a bad time for transition of
      authority. -- by Tom Regan | csmonitor.com

      The BBC reports that Saddam Hussein, former leader of Iraq, made
      billions of dollars more than previously thought from the United
      Nations' oil-for-food program, according to US officials. The US
      Treasury estimates $10 billion of "illicit gains" were made between
      1997 and 2002 from the scheme. And the Independent reports
      allegations that three top UN officials, including Benon Sevan, the
      Cypriot-born UN undersecretary general who ran the program for six
      years, took million dollar bribes from Mr. Hussein while overseeing
      the program.

      The UN oil-for-food program in Iraq, started in 1996, was supposed to
      be a humanitarian effort. Profits from Iraqi oil sales were to be
      used exclusively to buy food and medicine for the people of Iraq. The
      program was stopped in November of 2003.

      Find out more.

      The allegations of UN corruption, which have become know in some
      circles as "Kofigate," have become serious enough that UN Secretary
      General Kofi Annan appointed an independent panel last week, headed
      by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, to look into the
      allegations. Other members of the investigative panel include
      Yugoslav war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone of South Africa and
      the Swiss criminal law professor Mark Pieth. On Wednesday, CNN
      reported the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution
      welcoming the panel. The CBC reported Thursday that Resolution
      1538 "may come to be remembered as the official lifting of the lid on
      a financial scandal that could ultimately dwarf even the worst
      excesses of Wall Street."

      Russia, one of the nations that is alleged to have profited the most
      from the oil-for-food scheme, last week was reluctant to agree to
      such a resolution. But The New York Times reports that last weekend
      Mr. Annan personally phoned Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign
      minister, who until last month was the country's ambassador to the
      United Nations. On Monday, Russia changed its position.

      The US Congress is also investigating the allegations. The Guardian
      reported Wednesday Bush administration officials who were involved in
      the UN program told a House subcommittee "there had been a widespread
      system of kickbacks benefiting officials within Iraq, including
      Saddam [Hussein]." But they also said there was no "corroborated
      evidence so far" suggesting UN officials had been part of the scam.

      The allegations originally arose in January, when Al Mada, an
      independent Iraqi newspaper, first, reported that "presidents,
      reporters and business people" had received millions of dollars in
      bribes from Iraq. Al Mada, which had obtained documents from the
      former Iraqi oil ministry, listed 240 people, political parties and
      countries that received kickbacks for either their support of the
      Hussein regime or their silence about the plan.

      The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday on how the kickback scheme
      allegedly worked.

      The scam worked on two levels. Not only did Iraqi oil purchasers
      benefit from being able to resell at huge profit but also Saddam
      distributed "oil vouchers" to corporations, political parties and
      individuals whom he favored. Instead of alleviating the hardships of
      Iraqis under the oil-for-food program, the organizations and
      individuals favored by Hussein allegedly feathered their own nests.
      Hussein would also hand out oil vouchers instead of cash for goods
      imported illegally into Iraq in violation of United Nations
      sanctions. The recipient, or middleman, would hand the vouchers for
      Iraqi oil over to a range of firms operating in a neighbouring Arab
      countries. Those firms then paid the middleman commissions of
      anything between five cents and 30 cents per barrel, depending on
      market conditions.

      Meanwhile, on Tuesday, ABC News reported it had obtained a letter
      from the Iraqi Oil Ministry that described how UN undersecretary
      general Sevan had indicated which company should handle his "personal
      oil deal, estimated to be worth as much as $3.5 million." Two other
      people identified only as "senior UN officials" were suspected of
      taking "multimillion-dollar bribes." Mr. Sevan, who has submitted his
      resignation for May 31st, denied the charges.

      Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland writes that it is a "perilous
      hour" for Annan.

      Clearing up what is becoming known as the oil-for-fraud fiasco is
      essential to Annan's larger task of rebuilding the shattered trust
      between his organization and its most important partner, the United
      States. The burden of finding a new balance in global cooperation
      does not lie only with the Bush administration or its successor. It
      takes at least two to multilateral.

      The Christian Science Monitor writes that the timing couldn't be
      worse for a UN scandal, especially for the US and its plans in Iraq.
      Just as US President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair announced
      their support for a UN plan to guide the transition to democracy in
      Iraq, the UN is investigated for corruption.

      But The Washington Post writes that even with the scandal hanging
      over it, the UN has one remaining asset in Iraq – and it's a powerful

      It is not the United States, and so it has a better chance of
      overseeing the creation of a new Iraqi government without provoking a
      nationalist backlash. Key leaders who won't agree even to meet with
      US administrator L. Paul Bremer, such as Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali
      Sistani, have talked to [UN special envoy] Mr. Brahimi and even
      invited his intervention.

      Finally, the The Village Voice reports on how the UN is not the only
      organization having problems with corruption in Iraq. The Coalition
      Provisional Authority (CPA) is scrambling to deal with corruption
      charges against some of the members of the Iraqi Governing Council
      (IGC) in a separate incident. A CPA memo obtained by the Voice –
      which also details a myriad of other problems the CPA is having in
      Iraq – advocates filing corruption charges against several members of
      the IGC.

      Fanning the embers of distrust is the US's failure to acknowledge
      that the constituencies of key Governing Council members "are not
      based on ideology, but rather on the muscle of their respective
      personal militias and the patronage which we allow them to bestow,"
      according to the memo's author. Using the Kurds as an example, he
      reveals that "we have bestowed approximately $600 million upon the
      Kurdish leadership, in addition to the salaries we pay, in addition
      to the USAID projects, in addition to the taxes which we have allowed
      them to collect illegally." To underscore the point, the author adds
      that he recently spent an evening with a Kurdish contact watching The
      Godfather trilogy, and notes that "the entire evening was spent
      discussing which Iraqi Kurdish politicians represented which
      [Godfather] character."

      The memo says solving the problem is key for the US for one important
      reason – since the US appointed the members of the IGC, "their
      corruption is seen as our corruption."

      --- End forwarded message ---
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