BAGHDAD -- Iraq's Governing Council ordered an investigation yesterday into charges former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein bought the support of foreign politicians and organizations with millions of barrels of oil.
...The independent Baghdad newspaper al-Mada earlier published a list it said was based on Oil Ministry documents showing 46 individuals, companies, and organizations inside and outside Iraq who were given millions of barrels of oil.
Chaderji said he believed the newspaper's list was genuine. An official assessment will be left to the minister of justice.
...The newspaper's list included members of Arab ruling families, religious organizations, politicians and parties from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Sudan, China, Austria, France, Italy, and other countries.
My advice is, let's be careful here. Arms inspector David Kay recently explained that a lot of Saddam's weapons programs were fantasies put together by corrupt scientists and generals to fleece Saddam. If that was the prevailing ethos, shouldn't we suspect the existence of a fantasy bribe scheme as well? Tell Saddam the oil has been diverted to Jacques Chirac, when in fact it was sent to your cousin. And how is Saddam going to verify the pay-off - call Jacques, who will of course deny it?
I presume some of the diversions, such as to the PLO, really happened. As to the rest, we will see.
UPDATE: I just heard Peter Jennings of ABC News do the 5 PM radio promo for the evening news. He led with this story, and the only indication of skepticism was a perfunctory denial from George Galloway of England. ABC News has apparently seen the documents, and I hope they are not embarassing themselves. Presumably the evening broadcast will have more; currently, I am only finding the Reuters story at their website.
MORE: Here is the story by Brian Ross which aired on Thursday night. Chirac fans will focus on this:
According to the document, France was the second-largest beneficiary, with tens of millions of barrels awarded to Patrick Maugein, a close political associate and financial backer of French President Jacques Chirac.
Maugein, individually and through companies connected to him, received contracts for some 36 million barrels. Chirac's office said it was unaware of Maugein's deals, which Maugein told ABCNEWS are perfectly legal.
Each contract was worth roughly $0.50 per barrel, so this is $18 Million. So, he told ABC News it was legal - that is a long way from denying that it happened. Wow.
The NY Post has this:
Patrick Maugein, head of the oil firm Soco International - and reputedly a confidant of French President Jacques Chirac - denied receiving 25 million barrels of Iraqi oil as a bribe.
"It is delirious and absolutely impossible," he said.
Emphasis added, since we love to parse these denials. Did he take the oil as a non-bribe?
CLIPS on Patrick Maugein:
INTELLIGENCE ONLINE: "FRANCE / Patrick Maugein / A lot of people in high places in France are curious about the influence that a 55-year-old businessman, Patrick Maugein, appears to wield with president Jacques Chirac. (...).
Africa Intelligence: "In presenting Soco International's financial results for 2001 on March 20, company chairman Patrick Maugein, who is close to French president Jacques Chirac, laid out the firm's Africa strategy. (...). [Total : 251 Words].
OK, "close to Chirac" seems to be generally accepted.