More than 2,200 companies, including major firms like DaimlerChrysler, Siemens, Volvo and Atlas Copco, made illicit payments totaling $1.8 billion to Saddam Hussein's government during the U.N. oil-for food program, a report published on Thursday said.
The Swedish Engineering group Atlas Copco paid kickbacks from both its Construction and Mining Division in Sweden and its huge air compressor manufacturing division Airpower in Antwerp, Belgium. Airpower paid $1.3 million on sales of $15m while Atlas Copco CMT paid an undisclosed amount in respect of a contract for $500,000.
|Atlas Copco oil-free air compressor, made in Antwerp, Belgium|
In the past, Atlas Copco has been involved in paying bribes in respect of the supply of equipment for a major Saudi Arabian contract.
Three Irish companies are on the bribery list. Nycomed Imaging AS paid $759,000 on sales of $8.7m and Pentag Power Transmission Systems Limited paid $59,000 on sales of $2.9m.
Bula Resources, which was chaired by former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, sold €4,925,580 of Iraqi oil and paid kickbacks to the Iraqi government of €251,961. The report says that Bula shareholder and anti-Iraq sanctions campaigner, Mr Raid El Taher, was a beneficiary of the Bula deal.
The investigation found that the Bula Resources' payments to the Iraqi government were made through a company called Ambertey Assocides and routed through the Jordan National bank and a bank called the Fransabank.
The first payment was made on the 18th of July, 2001 with Ambertney making a deposit of $51,000 at Franksabank. A second payment of $99,000 was paid through the Jordan National Bank the following week. On August 4th, 2001 a third payment was made through Fransabank, also totalling $99,000.
|Paul A. Volcker - In April 2004, Volcker was asked by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to chair the Independent Inquiry into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program. In the course of his career, Volcker worked in the US Federal Government for almost 30 years, culminating in two terms as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1979-1987. He divided the earlier stages of his career between the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Treasury Department, and the Chase Manhattan Bank. |
The U.N.-established Independent Inquiry Committee, headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, named politicians in Russia, France, Britain, Italy and other countries who were given favours by Saddam in his quest to get 1990 U.N. sanctions lifted.
The program, which began in December 1996 and ended in 2003, was geared towards easing the impact of U.N. sanctions imposed in 1990 after Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait. It allowed Iraq to sell oil in order to pay for food, medicine and other civilian goods.
"It was the mother of all humanitarian programs," Volcker told a news conference, parodying Saddam's threat that countries who opposed him in the 1991 Gulf War would face "the mother of all battles."
The report said that under the program Iraq sold a total of $64.2 billion of oil to 248 companies, of which 139 paid illicit surcharges.
In turn some 3,614 companies sold $34.5 billion of humanitarian goods to Iraq and the report said 2,253 paid kickbacks. The total that Iraq made from the bribes paid by companies, which were registered in 66 countries, was $1.8 billion.
Volcker said this was far less than the nearly $11 billion Saddam made in smuggled oil sales outside of the program. Some of this was with the knowledge of the U.N. Security Council which was supposed to supervise the operation.
The report targeted U.N. officials for a lack of oversight and said Security Council members took little action when U.N. oil experts passed on their concerns.
In addition, the French owned BNP-Paribas bank, which held the escrow account for the program, did not disclose evidence of corruption in its possession, the report said.
|Every resident in Iraq received a monthly ‘food basket’ rations)under the Oil-for-Food Program Photo Credit:UN |
Preferential treatment was given to companies in France, Russia and China, all veto-holding members of the Security Council, who were more favourable to lifting the 1990 sanctions compared to the United States, Britain and Japan.
More than 18m barrels of oil were allocated either directly in the name of George Galloway, the UK Respect MP, or in the name of Fawaz Zureikat, a Jordanian businessman and one of his associates.
Surcharges of more than $2m were levied on four contracts corresponding to allocations for the benefit of Galloway and his charity campaign. Burhan al-Chalabi, a UK-based Iraqi businessman, received an Iraqi oil allocation, which he told an Iraqi official was to support Galloway’s campaign. Fortum, the company he nominated to purchase his allocations, paid him commissions worth $472,000. In April 2000, Fortum (in the name of Neste) made a donation of £6,750 to the Mariam Appeal, Galloway’s charity.
Fortum states there was no connection between its contract under the programme and its donation.
Soon after each deposit, a series of payments totalling $120,000 were transferred from Chalabi’s company’s account to Amineh Abu Zayyad, Galloway’s former wife. Both Mr Galloway and Abu Zayad have denied receiving or soliciting any proceeds from sales of Iraqi oil.