CIA Discloses Who's Who of Saddam's Alleged Bribes
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Central Intelligence Agency on Wednesday released a list of firms and people from dozens of countries allegedly given oil vouchers by Saddam Hussein's government that could be turned into cash.
The charts, compiled from 13 secret lists by Iraq's former vice president and oil minister, enumerates legitimate contracts to oil companies. But it is also a who's who of firms, political groups and individuals from whom the former Iraqi government wanted favors in its effort to subvert U.N. trade sanctions.
The list was issued as part of a report on Iraq's unconventional weapons by CIA advisor Charles Duelfer, a former U.N. inspector in Iraq. But Duelfer did not say whether anyone had tried to verify the names on the list.
All names of Americans and British companies and individuals, whether suspected of wrongdoing or not, were deleted from the list, part of which had been published by an Iraqi newspaper in Baghdad after the war in March 2003.
The only U.N. official on the list is Benon Sevan, the head of the humanitarian program for Iraq, who has been accused previously of receiving an oil voucher and has denied it several times.
The United Nations has given all its documents to Paul Volcker, former head of the Federal Reserve for an independent probe.
Among the alleged recipients of oil vouchers were Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua, Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his Liberal Democratic Party, the Russian presidential office, the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Ukraine Community Party, the Ukraine Socialist Party, the son of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and the Peoples Liberation Front of Palestine. There are also many others.
Diplomats said the list also included George Galloway, one of Britain's most outspoken anti-war campaigners, who has denied earlier allegations of payments. His name was removed by U.S. officials before the list was published.
Iraq was under a sweeping U.N. trade embargo in August 1990 after it invaded Kuwait. The sanctions were tightened after the 1991 Gulf War and not lifted until last year.
At the end of 1996, the United Nations and Iraq began the oil-for-food program that allowed Baghdad to buy civilian goods and sell oil to pay for them under U.N. monitoring. But since 1990, Iraq, with the knowledge of the United States and Britain, freely shipped oil by truck to Jordan and Turkey, before and during the U.N. program.
The government-to-government deals, known as Protocols, generated over $7.5 billion for Saddam from the early 1990s until the start of the 2003 war, the report said.
Iraq earned an additional $2 billion from kickbacks or surcharges associated with the oil-for-food program, $990 million from oil "cash sales" or smuggling, and $230 million from other surcharge imposition, the report said.
Companies in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen helped Saddam acquire prohibited items through deceptive trade practices, the report added.
"Saddam personally approved and removed all names of voucher recipients. He made all modifications to the list, adding or deleting names at will," the report said.
Oil companies were forced to pay surcharges, which by late 2,000 amounted to 25 to 50 cents per barrel.
But Russia blocked U.N. efforts to force oil buyers not to pay it. Britain, followed by the United States, later forced the United Nations to set oil prices retroactively to cut the surcharge.
U.S. oil companies purchased Iraqi crude from middlemen rather than directly from Baghdad. By early 2003, the United States was consuming 67 percent of Iraqi crude, by far the largest buyer. (Bernie Woodall contributed to this report)