Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Baby Blue Flag

Glenn Reynolds links to an ABC story  describing some of the Americans involved in the Oil-for-Food programme. Not just any Americans either.

Dec. 1, 2004 — Former American fugitive Marc Rich was a middleman for several of Iraq's suspect oil deals in February 2001, just one month after his pardon from President Clinton, according to oil industry shipping records obtained by ABC News. And a U.S. criminal investigation is looking into whether Rich, as well as several other prominent oil traders, made illegal payments to Iraq in order to obtain the lucrative oil contracts.

"Without that kind of middleman, the system would not work because the major oil companies did not want to deal with Iraq because there was a mandated kickback," said human rights investigator John Fawcett. Another broker was New York oil trader Ben Pollner, head of Taurus Oil, who investigators say handled several billion dollars worth of the transactions now under investigation.

William Safire had more on Rich, Pollner and others dealing with Saddam's Iraq in an article one and half months ago.

Powerful officials and their profiteering friends in France had a reason to try to stop the United States from overthrowing Saddam Hussein: They were pocketing billions in payoffs through a U.N. oil-for-food front. ...

A name that keeps coming up in my poking around is Marc Rich, the American billionaire who was for many years a fugitive, until blessed with one of Bill Clinton's midnight pardons. Rich's company Trafigura, spun off from the Swiss-based Glencore, and its possible dealings with such outfits as Jean-Paul Cayre's Ibex have excited the interest of many of the sleuths I've spoken to. France's diplomats in Washington are apoplectic, calling the unconfirmed Duelfer reports "unacceptable." They note in high dudgeon that U.S. firms involved in the United Nations corrupt caper are not named by the U.S. team and deride our excuse about "privacy laws."  But within 24 hours of the damning report's issuance, Judith Miller and her colleagues had the names of the U.S. companies involved - Chevron, Mobil, Texaco, Bay Oil and one Oscar Wyatt Jr. of Houston, who may have profited by $23 million - on the front page of The New York Times. ...

... Ben Pollner, head of Taurus Oil, active in Iraq all through the oil-for-food fiasco, stiffed Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau's men. ... The White House is wringing its hands because it needs the United Nations' blessing on the Iraqi election.

Update on Kojo: "This is the first we are hearing it"

The New York Post has details of Kojo Annan's business style in connection with the Food-for-Oil, which his father administered. Kojo met with heads of state and ministers in New York; attended UN conferences and functions at the General Assembly -- for which he his company $500 a day in expenses -- for purposes vaguely in support, but not directly related to the controversial United Nations Programme.

Ginny Wolfe, a spokeswoman for Cotecna, confirmed last night that the younger Annan was sent to U.N. meetings in New York and South Africa to lobby African leaders on the company's behalf but said that "at no time" was he involved in any discussions about the upcoming oil-for-food contract. Kojo Annan's activities caught the U.N. off guard last night. "We are unaware of this. This is the first we are hearing of it," a spokesman said.