Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The US Oil For Food Scandal

The bigger story today is not anti-war British MP George Galloway's trashing of the US Senate. It is this:

The new report focuses on both the $228m Saddam Hussein's regime is estimated to have made through illegal surcharges on the oil-for-food programme, and on the $8bn it made through sanctions-busting oil sales to Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Jordan.

US oversight was weak on both fronts, the report says - and sometimes amounted to facilitation of the illicit trades.

Kickbacks

It takes the example of Bayoil, a US oil firm which was indicted by US authorities in April and was allegedly used by the three Russian politicians as a go-between with the Iraqi authorities.

According to the report, the firm imported more than 200 million barrels to the US between 2000 and 2002, selling it to US companies and in the process paying $37m in illegal kickbacks to Baghdad.

US agencies such as the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) failed to examine its activities, the report warns, assuming that UN agencies would do the job - despite UN resolutions which clearly made such oversight the responsibility of national governments.

In all, US buyers paid more than half the $224m in total kickbacks, the report estimates.

USA, invade thyself. And kudos for the BBC for separating kickbacks on the OFFP and oil smuggling - and recognising the latter was magnitudes bigger.

BTW, I wrote about these numbers before - where I note that probably half of the surcharges were legal.

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