February 4, 2005

UNSCAM UPDATE: The Economist reports on the Volcker investigation:

Mr Volcker’s interim report answered some, though by no means all, of the questions surrounding the scandal. According to the report, Saddam-era Iraqi documents indicated that the programme head asked Iraq to allocate oil to a company called African Middle East Petroleum (AMEP), represented by a friend of Mr Sevan’s, Fakhry Abdelnour (who is also a distant cousin of former UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali). In return, Mr Sevan fought to allow Iraq to buy spare parts for its oil infrastructure, as opposed to food and the like, with its oil-for-food proceeds. In doing so, said Mr Volcker, Mr Sevan placed himself in a “grave and continuing conflict-of-interest situation”.

Both Mr Sevan and Mr Abdelnour had claimed to have been in contact just once, at a 1999 conference. But a search of Mr Sevan’s office found two of Mr Abdelnour’s business cards with different addresses, and telephone records showed repeated calls, both directly between the two men and probably through an intermediary. Shown the records, Mr Sevan admitted developing a friendship with Mr Abdelnour: “I came to like the guy. He’s an interesting character, you know.” And Mr Sevan’s explanation of bank deposits totalling $160,000? From an aunt, now deceased, he said. The committee found that she had lived modestly in a plain two-bedroom flat in Cyprus, purchased for her by Mr Sevan.

Read the whole thing. I agree that this is just the opening round.

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