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(Prime Time Crime exclusive Dec. 12, 2005)

Time to say ‘So Long’ to the UT

By Scott Newark

“The Oil for Food program was well run." 

(Deputy UN Secretary General Louise Frechette- June 1, 2005).

At first blush the statement seems to be so absurd an example of self denial as to be unbelievable but it’s necessary to realize that the person making it is a senior Canadian federal bureaucrat. When you define ‘well run’ in terms of number of bureaucrats shuffling paper, personal interests advanced (and in some cases enriched), dollars spent on oneself, expense accounts padded and in fact anything but producing results supposedly intended, then what the rest of us call the biggest financial mismanagement and corruption scandal in world history is indeed, “well run.”

The recent release of the anything but Independent U.N. Investigation Report on the Oil for Food program last week was the source for Ms. Frechette’s curious opinions. Even its conflict of interest ridden investigation (and equally compromised lead “investigators”, Paul Volcker and another senior Canadian ‘crat, Reid Morden) has documented unprecedented incompetence, corruption and outright thievery of such magnitude that the organization may want to listen to the growing number of commentators that suggest it be  renamed the United Thieves or UT for short.

That’s one of the many points that the Volcker report unwittingly raises; the Oil for Food corruption scandal did not occur in spite of the United Nations, it occurred because of the United Nations or, more accurately, what the United Nations has become.

Given the tens of millions wasted on the Volcker Report it merits at least a cursory examination before the various U.S. Congressional and criminal investigations further demonstrate the puff job it is, as was, of course, what was always intended by the UT and the people that profit from it. Let’s start with the lead ‘investigators’.

Paul Volcker sits on the International Advisory Board of Power Corporation, a Canadian company which has an ownership interest in the BNP Paribas Bank that was improperly appointed to oversee the Oil for Food program and whose wrongdoing made the scandal possible. Volcker’s former employer is a US-UN business group funded by the same corporate interests up to their eyeballs in the Oil for Food scandal. Meanwhile the supposed operational lead ‘investigator’, Reid Morden had to uhhhh…recuse himself from a critical part of the investigation concerning Saddam’s bribery of senior UT officials. Turns out Mr. Morden was a former business associate of one of the bribers (Tongsun Park) and one of the bribees (Maurice Strong, former CEO of Power Corp.). With four billion people to choose from in the world, the UT couldn’t find anyone that didn’t have the conflicts of interests these two did? Almost makes you think it was deliberate. 

Predictably, the UT Report doesn’t find a whole lot of fault although helped by Congressional revelations to date it confirms that from the very get go the whole program was fixed. The Oil for Food concept was dreamed up by a paid Iraqi agent, Samir Vincent, who, starting in 1992, used his impeccable American connections to help pitch the idea. When he needed a bit of help to get the UT leadership on board he turned to another D.C. and UT “insider”, Tongsung Park to grease the wheels as it were. Park was an experienced greaser having come to public and prosecutorial attention for his creative political donation techniques in what was dubbed the ‘Koreagate’ scandal a decade previous. Saddam was sufficiently impressed with the Vincent and Park combo that he authorized in excess of $10M for the pair to bribe UT officials to make sure that the Oil for Food ‘humanitarian program was set up so that he could rob it blind. 

And it was. The program was supposed to be run in accordance with lofty UT Resolutions and overseen by a special Security Council Committee (611 Committee) to ensure compliance. Executive oversight was vested in what was known as the P5 group which is shorthand for the five permanent members of the Security Council namely, the U.S., Britain, China, Russia and for some laughable reason France. The evidence is clear that what little efforts at managerial competence and program integrity did exist came from the U.S. and Britain while the other three countries scrambled to sign up contracts that mysteriously seemed to provide personal as well as corporate profit. 

Managerial responsibility was vested in the Secretary General who at the time was an Egyptian dullard named Boutros Boutros Galley or BBG as the bribers came to call him. Maurice Strong, another murky Canadian with direct corporate ties to the same people that ran BNP Paribas (and Tongsung Park and a gazillion others) was the UT Under Secretary for reforming itself. As the Volcker Report details, he spent much of his time in those days “advising” BBG while trying all the while to finagled the job of Secretary General for Himself with the help of pals like Al Gore and Madeline Albright (she who now urges US ‘engagement’ with the Muslim Brotherhood). 

When that didn’t work and Kofi Annan (a remarkably compliant Ghanian diplomat) ended up as Secretary General, Strong retained his position as a direct Advisor to Annan and for good measure was instrumental in having the aforementioned Louise Frechette (known unaffectionally in Canadian civil service circles as ‘Jeez Louise’) appointed as Deputy Secretary General. Rounding out the cast of ‘leadership’ on the 38th floor of UT headquarters was a Cypriot crook named Benon Sevan who Annan appointed to ‘run’ the Oil for Food program. 

The Oil for Food program had had three components: 

  • An independent company to approve sale of Iraqi oil to legitimate buyers

  • An independent bank to take the money from the oil sales and transfer it to approved vendors of supposedly vital humanitarian supplies to help the Iraqi people

  • An independent company to oversee and inspect the humanitarian supplies purchased through the proceeds of oil sales.

Sound good? Unfortunately, as even Volcker acknowledges, the process to select all three was neither fair nor honest and unexplained “political” considerations took precedence over integrity. For some unexplained reason, Volcker dodged probing this subject beyond exposing that the fix was in from the beginning.

The Volcker report documents how Sevan and Frechette ignored direct complaints from Sweden, Austria, The Netherlands, Japan and Canada that kickbacks were being demanded. Sevan is hiding out on Cyprus (no extradition treaty with the U.S.) and Jeez Louise is sucking back Chablis at taxpayer expense looking for re-appointment.  In fairness, Volcker does also expose the fact that the inspection of goods contract was removed from Lloyds, a British company, in 1998 and awarded to Cotechna, a company that deliberately and directly used Kofi Annan’s son Kojo as a highly paid ‘consultant’ to miraculously replace Lloyd’s. Any honest person capable of reading the English language would conclude that Kofi Annan was at least involved, perhaps unwittingly, in helping Cotechna in its bid to get the lucrative contract yet even this conclusion is beyond Mr. Volcker and his investigation.

Obviously the Bank was the most critical component of the program. The Bank chosen, BNP Paribas, was actually not even among the banks originally recommended for consideration by UN staff after initial proposals were received. It was, however, specifically requested by Saddam, reinforced by Samir Vincent and his ‘friends’. Somehow, BNP Paribas got approved and the largest corruption scandal in history was on its way. 

BNP Paribas made over $1B in profit from its role in the Oil for Food program. There is simply no question that the Oil for Food scandal could not have happened as it did if BNP had done what it was supposed to do. Evidence before Congressional Committees now confirms that BNP routinely ignored unauthorized ‘vendors’ receiving money and Iraqi ‘surcharge’ (kickback) demands. Congressional investigators have also unearthed incontrovertible evidence that sale of Iraqi oil was used to fund companies and individuals with explicit Al Qaeda links. People have long sought the potential ‘link’ between Saddam and terrorism. The sad truth is that we now know that such a link exists; it’s called the United Nations Oil for Food Program. 

In perhaps the most bizarre part of the Report, Mr. Volcker tap dances around the clear truth with respect to the bribery efforts of Park and Vincent aimed at BBG and Maurice Strong. Volcker can’t bring himself to find any evidence that supports that Strong was being bribed (or knew he was being bribed) even though:

  • There is evidence that two people acting as Saddam's bribers (Vincent and Park) say they were bribing him

  • He meets with the two bribers plus the Iraqi Ambassador to the UN at a restaurant which he subsequently claims to have ‘forgotten’ about when subsequently interviewed

  • Thereafter the Iraqi representatives to the UN and the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq seek Strong’s assistance to help Iraq

  • He owes a guy a million bucks and the guy makes it clear he wants his money

  • He explains this to Park who agrees to “invest” in a Strong owned company (Cordex) whose other shareholder happens to be a company that is part of the financial empire of a  guy who is currently Canada’s Prime Minister

  • At exactly the time Strong is doing up paperwork to meet the increasing demands of his creditor, Strong has a meeting with the Iraqi Ambassador to the UN, the Iraqi Deputy PM  and the briber, Park, without other staff present.

  • Thereafter, without precedent, connection to his official duties or subsequent explanation, and contrary to his assertions he was never “involved” in Iraqi matters, Strong writes to Secretary General Annan recommending against the appointment of the very straight shooting Richard Butler as the head of the weapons inspection program in Iraq (something the Clouseau like sleuths at the Volcker group never saw fit to question Strong about) 

  • Three weeks after these meetings Park goes to Iraq and immediately thereafter gives Strong a cheque for $988,000.00 (US) drawn on a bank in Jordan

  • The cheque is made to Strong personally

  • Strong pays off his debt with it (no confirmation any shares were ever transferred)

  • Park gives Strong an extra $30K a couple of weeks later for no apparent reason

  • When questioned about the cheque Strong provides repeated and varying inaccurate information until confronted with the cheque

  • After being advised of the impending investigation Strong calls Park to get the facts straight

  • Vincent plead guilty and Park has been indicted for acting for Saddam and bribing both Strong and BBG

  • Strong’s lawyer refuses to release the letter written by Strong trying to influence the appointment of the head of the weapons inspection program which was actually paid for by the Oil for Food program

In spite of this, Volcker "can't" reach an adverse conclusion about Maurice Strong?

Contrast that with the way he ignores direct evidence from Cotechna documents, direct oral evidence from one of its officers, Michael Wilson, that Kofi was in on the deal to get Cotechna to replace Lloyd's, phone records, Kojo’s memo written at the time that clearly indicate his dad was helping. Instead, Volcker concludes that Wilson's written notes....made at the time in 1998......were false and made for the purpose of self aggrandizement. He simply doesn’t comment on the horrendously incriminating materials from Kofi Annan’s son that specifically mentions his father’s involvement in getting Cotechna the contract. Based on all of this, it would appear that Mr. Volcker's capacity for exercising rational judgement is confined to exonerating senior UN officials.

Hopefully the US government is carefully digesting the Volcker Report and preparing to ask Maurice Strong some tough questions should he ever emerge from his current hiding hole in China. The US, and other like minded countries, should also learn from this sorry, but cumulative experience by saying so long to the United Thieves and then, afterword, start over again on this truly noble idea, only this time on an invitation-only basis.

This analysis was written following the release of the Volcker report. Earlier this week, as reported in PTC, a U.S. Congressional Committee investigating the Oil for Food scandal recommended that both BNP Paribas and Maurice Strong be the subject of further independent (ie; non-UN) investigation.

Meanwhile, BNP Paribas remains in operation, Maurice Strong remains in Chinese hiding and the mainstream Canadian media remain silent. 


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