April 20, 2004

UNSCAM UPDATE: ABC News has more on the unfolding U.N. oil-for-food scandal:

April 20 — At least three senior United Nations officials are suspected of taking multi-million dollar bribes from the Saddam Hussein regime, U.S. and European intelligence sources tell ABCNEWS.

One year after his fall, U.S. officials say they have evidence, some in cash, that Saddam diverted to his personal bank accounts approximately $5 billion from the United Nations Oil-for-Food program.

In what has been described as the largest humanitarian aid effort ever undertaken, the U.N. Oil-for-Food program began in 1996 to help Iraqis who were suffering under sanctions imposed following the first Gulf War.

The program allowed Iraq to sell limited amounts of oil, under supposedly tight U.N. supervision, to finance the purchase of much-needed humanitarian goods.

Most prominent among those accused in the scandal is Benon Sevan, the Cyprus-born U.N. undersecretary general who ran the program for six years.

In an interview with ABCNEWS last year, Sevan denied any wrongdoing. . . .

But documents have surfaced in Baghdad, in the files of the former Iraqi Oil Ministry, allegedly linking Sevan to a pay-off scheme in which some 270 prominent foreign officials received the right to trade in Iraqi oil at cut-rate prices.

“It’s almost like having coupons of bonds or shares. You can sell those coupons to other people who are normal oil traders,” said Claude Hankes-Drielsma, a British adviser to the Iraq Governing Council.

Investigators say the smoking gun is a letter to former Iraqi oil minister Amer Mohammed Rasheed, obtained by ABCNEWS and not yet in the hands of the United Nations.

There’s much more. Read the whole thing.

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