April 30, 2003

THE ELF-AQUITAINE SCANDAL REACHES INTO SOME ODD PLACES:

One of the largest private shareholders in BNP Paribas , the French bank that holds more than $13 billion in Iraqi oil funds administered through the United Nation’s oil-for-food program, is an Iraqi-born businessman who once helped to arm Iraq in the 1980′s and brokered business deals with Saddam Hussein’s government, according to public records and interviews.

The involvement of the businessman, the British billionaire Nadhmi Auchi, raises questions about how carefully the United Nations has vetted the bank in its continuing role as repository of oil-for-food funds. . . .

Earlier this month, Mr. Auchi was arrested and released on bail in London pending a court hearing next week on fraud charges involving the French oil giant TotalFinaElf. French prosecutors have accused Mr. Auchi of helping channel bribes to Total’s executives, a charge Mr. Corker denies.

We keep hearing about Halliburton, but it seems to be TotalFinaElf that’s at the center of all the really shady stuff.

UPDATE: Reader Kathleen deBettencourt emails with an excellent suggestion:

The United States should propose that a full audit of the Oil for Food program be conducted by an international team of independent auditors immediately. This proposal should be done in open session. It will be very illustrative to see who objects.

Indeed.