Roger L. Simon

Get Yer Daily Oil-for-Food!

Investigation of the metastasizing United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal continued on two fronts yesterday. Both Henry Hyde’s House Committee and the UN’s own independent panel were focusing on the role of the French bank BNP Paribas, which apparently did little checking on where the Oil-for-Food funds they distributed were headed. Bob Bennet, one of the bank’s lawyers, deemed that assertion “outrageous,” according to the NYT’s Judith Miller. But Miller also reports:

Two people familiar with the United Nations investigation, led by Paul A. Volcker, said investigators had become frustrated with BNP resistance to requests for records and other information. But Mr. Bennet said the bank was cooperating.

Don’t they always?

On a yet more blood-curdling level, the House Committee is set to reveal today how Saddam funneled the UN’s Oil-for-Food money to the families of Palestinian suicide/homicide bombers. From Fox News:

It has long been established that Saddam paid bounties of $15,000 to $25,000 to the Palestinian families of the murderers. Hyde’s committee will reveal at the hearing that some of the reward money was deposited from illegal profits Saddam made by demanding 10 percent kickbacks on all the contracts of companies that did business with the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food program.

Those funds were then deposited with other Iraqi money, such as Jordanian Oil-for-Food oil payments, into the Central Bank of Iraq account in the Rafidain Bank in Amman, Jordan. The funds were then transferred to another account in the bank controlled by Iraq’s ambassador to Jordan Sabah Yaseen. It was from Yaseen’s account that Saddam’s officials would cut and hand out checks to the homicide bombers’ families, Hyde’s investigators are expected to say.

One of the many cruel jokes in all this is that those impoverished Palestinian families were being paid a pittance – relative to Saddam’s fortune (not to mention Arafat’s) – for the lives of their children. I wonder if Saddam or his henchmen set up this particular sick scheme the way they did just for their amusement. This part of the scam wouldn’t seem to have cost them more than few dozen Mercedes, yet it was clearly engineered (through cut-outs) to come from rake-offs from the Oil-for-Food Program, kicking dirt in our collective faces. More to come, I’m sure.

UPDATE: More from Gertz (via Power Line)