Who stole the kids’ food and medicine?

* Who stole the kids’ food and medicine?
* IGC to probe into oil-for-food deal


Scripps Howard News Service
March 23 2004

Who stole the kids’ food and medicine?

An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan plans to establish an independent
commission to investigate bribery and kickbacks in the
U.N.-administered oil-for-food program for Iraq.

A commission is a fine idea. Iraq will certainly not be the last
U.N.-imposed embargo with a humanitarian loophole, and if the
sanctions are to be effective they must be properly run. Clearly the
oil-for-food program was not.

Records seized in Iraq show Saddam Hussein’s regime made payments to
at least 270 foreign diplomats, government officials and
corporations. One of them was Benon Sevan, the U.N. executive in
charge of the program.

The allegation is that these payments were bribes for the officials
to look the other way while Saddam skimmed off more than $10 billion
that was supposed to go toward buying food and medicine for his

If the allegation is true, we’d like to see the United Nations go
further and see these officials prosecuted, by their own countries
or, if necessary, the international court in The Hague, Netherlands.

First, it’s a matter of simple justice. Crooks should be punished.

Second, the United Nations has an obligation to clean its own house.
The precedent of tolerating kickbacks to its officials and
contractors is not a healthy one.

Third, during the duration of the embargo, its chief supporter, the
United States, took all kinds of abuse for supposedly depriving Iraqi
children of food and medicine. The Iraqi children might have been
sick and starving but the fault was the officials and their abettors
who were stealing the money.

That canard must be shown to the world for the false and baseless
charge it is.

Al-Jazeera, Qatar
March 23 2004

IGC to probe into oil-for-food deal

The programme handled billions in funds for food for Iraqis

Iraq’s Governing Council has decided to launch a formal inquiry into
alleged corruption in the now-defunct UN-administered oil-for-food
programme, a spokesman for council member Ahmad Chalabi said.

“Saddam Hussein was able to loot billions of (dollars of) Iraqi
people’s money under the supervision of the United Nations,”
Intifadh Qanbar, a spokesman for council member Ahmad Chalabi, told a
news conference.

He said the council would hire international legal and accountancy
firms to help the inquiry investigate “all personalities, companies,
families, leaders, politicians all over the world who received these

Media reports have alleged that government officials, foreign firms
and a senior UN official were among those who profited illegally from
the humanitarian programme.

Chalabi heads the US-backed council’s finance committee, which has
been making preliminary investigations.

The United Nations has already begun an in-house probe of its staff
and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week asked members of the
Security Council for their support in a second independent,
high-level inquiry into the allegations.

Annan has been under pressure to conduct an inquiry from US officials
searching for Saddam’s suspected hidden assets.

The inquiry will investigate “all personalities, companies, families,
leaders, politicians all over the world who received these bribes”

Intifadh Qanbar,
Spokesman for Ahmad Chalabi, IGC

One name on a published list was Benon Sevan, who ran the UN
programme that began in December 1996 and ended a year ago.

Oil companies chosen by Iraq put money into a UN escrow account out
of which suppliers of civilian goods were paid to ease the impact of
1991 Gulf War trade sanctions on Iraqis.

Sevan has denied the allegations and UN officials have said they have
not been given any documents.

Foreign companies

Annan, in his letter to Security Council members on Friday, said the
media allegations must be addressed “to bring to light the truth and
prevent an erosion of trust and hope that the international community
has invested in the organisation”.

Annan has been under pressure
to conduct internal UN probe

UN officials say any probe would need to look at foreign companies,
suppliers, middle men who bought the oil and the French bank
BNP-Paribas, which handled the UN-Iraq account.

The oil-for-food programme handled more than $65 billion in funds for
food, medicine and other civilian goods. It was shut down last year
after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam.

The US General Accounting Office, an interagency body headed by the
Treasury, is trying to locate and seize $10 billion to $40 billion in
estimated hidden Iraqi assets.

The GAO said in a report last week that Saddam acquired $5.7 billion
of these assets from the proceeds of oil smuggled through Syria,
Jordan, Turkey and elsewhere.