January 17, 2005

O-F-F Investigations Progress

Glenn posted it so the whole world knows about it, but I have tried to post any important updates in the Oil-For-Food scandal, and this U.S. News feature certainly fits in that category. Sources within the official U.N. investigation by Paul Volcker and the various congressional probes say that early estimates of $21 billion in total fraud have been vastly overstated, putting the real figure (so far) at between $4-5 billion. Boy, what a relief that is. So why didn't member countries that were aware of the fraud do more to stop it?

Summaries of U.N. sanctions committee meetings make it clear that member countries, including the United States, were aware that Saddam was attempting to game the system. More than once, committee members were shown evidence that kickbacks were being paid by aid suppliers, that Saddam was diverting aid to his military, and that Iraqi oil was being smuggled illegally. The question now for everyone examining the sieve like oil-for-food program is why so little was done to stop such abuses and what responsibility Washington may have. A Senate investigator who has reviewed some of the sanctions committee minutes told U.S. News that, overall, U.S. performance looks to have been pretty good. "When the U.S. or the Brits or the Dutch bring up a concern with the program," the investigator explained, "the Russians and the French and the Chinese stop the proper oversight." Other investigators say it is too soon to allot responsibility for the program's many failures. "At this point," one says, "we don't know if the U.S. was up against a brick wall or not, and if the laxity was coming from the U.N. or if it was really at the member states."

Posted by dan at January 17, 2005 03:23 PM
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