Friday, April 22, 2005

Roger Simon's Mystery

OK. It's tinfoil hat time. Roger Simon begins with a mystery. Where is the Oil for Food investigation going?

I know - this blog seems obsessed with the Oil-for-Food scandal, but it is one of the greatest mysteries of our time and this blog is written by a mystery writer. And, as with any good mystery, you never know the identity of Mr. Big until the very last minute. Of course, in this case it has seemed for some time that Mr. Big's initial (pace Kafka) would be K. But who knows? There are nooks and crannies as far North as Ontario now. Surprises could occur.

Ontario? Does anything spooky ever happen in Ontario? In this case, maybe. Here's a chart I drew up based on known connections. A Canadian high-ranking UN official named Maurice Strong has resigned after being accused to being one of two officials who Saddam bagman Tongsun Park met. According to the Washington Post:

UNITED NATIONS, April 20 -- The United Nations' special envoy to North Korea, Maurice F. Strong, decided Wednesday to step aside until U.N.-appointed investigators and federal prosecutors finish examining his financial ties to a South Korean lobbyist accused of trying to bribe U.N. officials. The move comes less than a week after federal authorities charged Tongsun Park, a South Korean businessman, with lobbying U.N. officials as an "unregistered agent" of Saddam Hussein. A witness said Park in 1996 and 1997 invested $1 million in Iraqi funds in a Canadian company owned by the son of a high-ranking U.N. official, a federal investigator said. Strong, a Canadian entrepreneur and environmentalist, acknowledged Monday that Park had invested money in a business he was "associated with" in 1997 and later advised him on his dealings with Pyongyang.

However, this same Maurice Strong has connections to Paul Martin, the Prime Minister of Canada who is now being accused of presiding over a decades long corruption scandal and to the French-Canadian Demarais family which have strong monetary connections to Total Elf Aquitane, which is alleged to have dealings with Saddam Hussein and BNP Paribas, the official bank of the Oil-For-Food program. The Guardian reported on April 6, 2003:

An Anglo-Iraqi billionaire who has close links to the Blair government, built his financial empire on peddling his influence with Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime - the Observer can reveal. ... Auchi was arrested last week in connection with a £26 million kickback scandal involving the French oil giant Elf-Aquitaine. His arrest is the latest spectacular twist in a story that spans three continents and involves an attempted assassination, two of Europe's largest political corruption scandals and a series of multi-million pound oil and arms deals with Saddam Hussein. An Observer investigation can today reveal how a man who built his fortune on secretive deals with the Iraqi regime came to mix with ministers in the Blair government.


Here are a few other snippets which are bound to add to the mystery. While these associations are circumstantial and by no means conclusive, it does serve as a useful roadmap for connecting the dots.

"On Friday, Mr. Hunt reported that Mr. Volcker is a close friend and paid adviser to billionaire Paul Desmarais Sr., who owns the Power Corp. of Canada. Power Corp. shares control of a holding company that is the largest single shareholder of the multinational energy firm Total, which received $1.75 billion worth of oil from Iraq. Total was in discussions with Saddam Hussein to develop oil fields in Iraq if sanctions were lifted (which would have made them worth billions of dollars more). Mr. Demarais' son is currently a director of Total." -- Washington Times

Just a month before the Canada Free Press revealed that Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman, is a member of Power Corp.’s international advisory board–and a close friend and personal adviser to Power’s owner, Paul Desmarais Sr.–a U.S. congressional investigation into the UN scandal discovered that Power Corp. had extensive connections to BNP Paribas, a French bank that had been handpicked by the UN in 1996 to broker the Oil-for-Food program. In fact, Power actually once owned a stake in Paribas through its subsidiary, Pargesa Holding SA. The bank also purchased a stake in Power Corp. in the mid-seventies and, as recently as 2003, BNP Paribas had a 14.7 per cent equity and 21.3 per cent voting stake in Pargesa, company records show. John Rae, a director and former executive at Power (brother of former Ontario premier Bob Rae), was president and a director of the Paribas Bank of Canada until 2000. And Power Corp. director Michel François-Poncet, who was, in 2001, the vice-chairman of Pargesa, also sat on Paribas’s board, though he died Feb. 10, at the age of 70. A former chair of Paribas’s management board, André Levy-Lang, is currently a member of Power’s international advisory council. And Amaury-Daniel de Seze, a member of BNP Paribas’s executive council, also sat on Pargesa’s administrative council in 2002. -- Canada Free Press

A UN official said Mr Strong was in the Dominican Republic recuperating from pneumonia and would be making no public comments. Mr Annan, asked if he had known of the relationship between Mr Strong and Park, said he was not aware of it. Mr Strong was also a member of the board of Air Harbour Technologies, along with Mr Annan's son, Kojo Annan, whom the UN is also investigating for possible conflicts of interest in the award of an oil-for-food contract to Cotecna, a Swiss company that employed him. -- Sydney Morning Herald

Maurice Strong 68, and his wife, Hanne, fancy themselves quite the environmental couple. He was chairman of the far-out Earth Council, earning the nickname Father Earth. In 1992 he orchestrated the United Nations Earth Sumniit, which called on the developed world to fork over, for its environmental sins, $600 billion to the Third World. Together the Strongs run the private Manitou Foundation. A gathering place for religious sects (Hanne is into "spiritual interests"), it backs, among other things, research into ethnobotany-the interactions between humans and plants. ... Nevertheless, Strong's a chap to be reckoned with. Congress says that without belt-tightening the U.N. can kiss good-bye $I.'3 billion in back U.S. dues. He is the driving force behind a U.N. reorganization plan aimed at dealing with Congress' objections. ... Strong is up to his eyeballs in Molten Metal Technology, a busted handler of hazardous waste notorious for its flaky technology and ties to presidential hopeful Al Gore (FORBES, Jan. 22, 1996 and Apr. 21, 1997). A big contributor to Gore's campaigns, Molten Metals has surfaced in the Senate hearings on corrupt campaign financing.  ... So how did Strong come to be picked to reengineer the U.N.? The way we hear it, former secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali wanted to recruit someone close to the current Administration. Strong, Al Gore's pal, fit the bill. Boutros-Ghali was tossed out last year, but his successor, Kofi Annan, allowed Strong to stay on. Strong says he doesn't want the U.N.'s head honcho's job. His mission, he says, is to save the the planet from industry's depredations. Will the real Maurice Strong please stand up? Global Policy Org, 1998