April 21, 2004

ABC Gets On Board O-F-F

An ABC News investigative report claims to have a "smoking gun" implicating U.N. official Benon Savan in the bribery and kickback scandal involving the Iraq Oil-For-Food program, which was run by Savan:

In the letter, dated Aug. 10, 1998, an Iraqi oil executive mentions a request by a Panama-based company, African Middle East Petroleum Co., to buy Iraqi oil — along with a suggestion that Sevan had a role in the deal. "Mr. Muwafaq Ayoub of the Iraqi mission in New York informed us by telephone that the abovementioned company is the company that Mr. Sevan cited to you during his last trip to Baghdad," the executive wrote in Arabic.

A handwritten note indicated that permission for the oil purchase was granted by "the Vice President of the Republic" on Aug. 15, 1998.

The second page of the letter contains a table titled "Quantity of Oil Allocated and Given to Mr. Benon Sevan." The table lists a total of 7.3 million barrels of oil as the "quantity executed" — an amount that, if true, would have generated an illegal profit of as much as $3.5 million.

(via Glenn Reynolds)

Nice work if you can get it. There's not much to the ABC "investigation" beyond the existence of the letter. Most of the rest of their piece presents evidence that has been in the public domain for over two months, but it's still nice to see some mainstream news outlets getting involved with the story.

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal kept the pressure on with an editorial reporting Russia's reluctance to go along with a Security Council resolution that would give Paul Volcker, the proposed head of the investigation, the powers he needs to conduct a thorough examination of the program.

UPDATE 4/22: The U.N. has passed the SC resolution requested by Volcker, although the linked article notes that the resolution "stopped short, however, of any language that would have compelled member states to submit to the inquiry."

Posted by dan at April 21, 2004 10:38 PM