Europeans accused in Iraq report
From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN Senior Producer
Galloway was re-elected to the British parliament on May 5.
A Senate panel says two European politicians received oil bribes from Saddam Hussein.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A U.S. Senate committee probing the defunct U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq alleges that two politicians from Britain and France received millions of dollars worth of oil allocations from Saddam Hussein's regime.
Both men have denied the allegations in a report released Thursday by the Senate Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
It asserts that France's Charles Pasqua and Britain's George Galloway each were granted millions of barrels of oil allocations by Saddam to thank them for their positions in favor of loosening economic sanctions against Iraq.
Pasqua is a former French interior minister in charge of law enforcement and an ally of French President Jacques Chirac. Galloway was just re-elected to Britain's parliament.
The Senate committee's report said that between May 1999 and December 2000, Pasqua was granted 11 million barrels of oil, which he steered to a Swiss company called Genmar, which took delivery of the oil.
The report did not allege how much money Pasqua may have made on the deals but asserted in general that "gatekeepers" to the Iraqi oil typically pocketed a commission of 3 to 30 cents a barrel.
Pasqua strongly denied the allegations in a statement published Thursday in the French newspaper Le Figaro, saying the Senate subcommittee's charges were rehashed claims that first appeared in an Iraqi newspaper in January, 2004.
"I denied (it then and)... again in October 2004 having received any profit in any form from the Iraqi authorities or the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein," his statement said, adding that Pasqua is suing a British newspaper and an Italian newspaper over articles claiming he benefited from the program.
The committee alleged that Galloway received allocations for 20 million barrels from June 2000 to June 2003 and arranged for two companies, Aredio Petroleum-France and Middle East Advance Semiconductor, to take delivery of the crude.
The president of Middle East ASI was a Jordanian businessman named Fawaz Zureikat, who according to the Senate report was the benefactor of a UK charity started by Galloway.
Galloway established a foundation in 1998, Mariam Appeal, that raised more than $3 million to send medical aid to Iraqi children and to campaign for the lifting of sanctions on Iraq, and about half the funds came from Zureikat, according to an official UK probe cited by the committee.
"Some evidence indicates that Galloway appeared to use a charity for children's leukemia to conceal payments associated with at least one such allocation," the committee report said.
Galloway told CNN he intended to travel to Washington to appear at a hearing of the committee May 17 but attacked the process.
"It's a pretty perverse process -- that someone can be invited to appear in front of an investigations committee after the investigation has finished, and after the person being investigated has been slandered across the entire world behind the cowardly cloak of parliamentary privilege because they cannot be sued.
"I'll be going there to give them hell," he said.
"If I really was the proud possessor of 20 million barrels of oil, that would make me a billionaire. The most scrutinized man in British politics being made a billionaire by the most scrutinized regime in the world, at a time when I was leading a mass movement against sanctions and war in the country and beyond, and nobody noticed it."
A spokesman for committee chairman Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said the office had "not received an official confirmation from Galloway to our invitation."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, asked at a Thursday news conference if Britain would investigate the allegations, said: "We've no plans to do that."
The subcommittee is one of a handful probing oil-for-food and pushing for U.N. reform.
An independent panel led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and appointed by the United Nations plans a final report in the summer.
The committee based its findings about Pasqua and Galloway on Iraqi Oil Ministry documents and correspondence and recent investigator interviews with a number of former high-ranking Iraqi officials, including former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan and former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz.
Galloway met with Saddam and Aziz when they were in power and staunchly opposed the 2003 war with Iraq led by the United States and Britain. He has repeatedly denied that his anti-war efforts were financed in any way by Iraq.
But the Senate report quoted Ramadan as saying last month that Galloway received oil allocations because "he wanted to lift the embargo against Iraq."
Galloway, 51, was re-elected to the British parliament on May 5 on an anti-war platform. He is a former Labour MP who was expelled from the party for urging British soldiers not to fight in Iraq.
Iraqi officials referred to the oil allocations as the "Saddam Bribery System," the report said.
Under the oil-for-food program, Saddam chose the buyers of his oil and the vendors from whom he purchased food, medicine, and supplies.
Pasqua, 78, had a long history of friendly relations with Iraq, and in the 1990s he advocated restoring economic ties. In 1993, he met with Aziz in Paris when Aziz went to France for medical treatment.
All the contracts were approved by the U.N. Security Council, which over seven years managed $64 billion in proceeds held in an escrow account.
Pasqua and Galloway were among a list of 270 people and companies first published in a Baghdad newspaper last year as having received oil allocations.
The list included Houston oil and gas businessmen David Chalmers and Iraqi-American Samir Vincent, who have both faced federal criminal charges.
Chalmers is accused of paying surcharges to Iraq to secure oil deals. Vincent pleaded guilty to illegally lobbying U.S. and U.N. officials for Iraq.
Last year, Galloway won a libel suit against the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper stemming from an article, relying on apparently forged documents from the early 1990s, that alleged that Galloway received direct payments from Iraq.
The Senate committee stated that the documents supporting its findings date from 2001 and have no relation to documents cited in the Telegraph article that a British court deemed defamatory.
"The evidence examined by the subcommittee indicates that Galloway was granted oil allocations that would have to be monetized through complex oil transactions," the report said.