Oil For Food Hearings Begin

Reuters reports on today’s hearing before the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations:

Saddam Hussein (news – web sites)’s regime reaped over $21 billion from kickbacks and smuggling before and during the now-defunct U.N. oil-for-food program, twice as much as previous estimates, according to a U.S. Senate probe on Monday.
The monies flowed between 1991 and 2003 through oil surcharges, kickbacks on civilian goods and smuggling directly to willing governments, Senate investigators said at a hearing.
“How was the world so blind to this massive amount of influence-peddling?” asked Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, head of the investigations subcommittee. Coleman made public more documents he said were evidence of bigger kickbacks and payments than what was previously known, including 2003 data previously not reviewed.
Panel investigators also echoed the findings by Duelfer, head of the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group, that Saddam’s regime gave lucrative contracts to buy Iraqi oil to high-ranking officials in Russia, France and other nations. On the list of 270 individuals, businesses and political parties was the head of the U.N. oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan, who has vigorously denied the charges.
The United Nations has refused to hand over documents to a U.S. congressional committee or allow Sevan to appear before a panel while its own investigation is under way, led by Paul Volcker, the former U.S. Federal Reserve. U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York that Secretary-General Kofi Annan had telephoned Coleman and Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, “to assure them we are not being obstructionist” following an angry letter last week from the two senators.

You can access today’s testimony here.


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