Friday, July 23, 2004

UN oil-for-food scandal - follow the money

Friends of Saddam blog continues on the money trail of the UN oil-for-food scandal. And another very prominent name pops up. Scroll down if you can't wait.

First from CBS Market Watch we learn:

Weir review finds irregular Iraq oil-for-food payments (UK:WEIR) By Emily Church
LONDON (CBS.MW) -- British engineering firm Weir Group (UK:WEIR) Thursday said an internal review of its contracts under the UN's Oil for Food program in 2000 had uncovered 4.2 million pounds in payments that were on top of its normal commission payments. Weir said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange that it cannot rule out the possibility that sums may have been returned to Iraq. The trading terms had been amended at the request of certain Iraqi customers, it said. The contracts involved the supply of pump equipment and spare parts for clean water supply and oil field water injection and pipelines. Its internal review revealed that, in the case of 15 out of a total of 37 contracts, payments in addition to normal commissions were made to an agent acting on behalf of the group's subsidiaries. Weir said that the review "has revealed a number of areas within the group's procedures where improvements can be made. Management is taking the necessary actions to implement these improvements immediately. The Group has also filed disclosures with the relevant authorities."

This small article raises some big questions.

First of all, what prompted the internal review? Was it routine or did something or somebody (Volker maybe) prompt it?

$4.2 million is a lot of money to pay out on top of regular commissions and nobody noticed for almost four years; until the scandal broke?

Who were the "certain Iraqi customers" who altered the trading terms? And didn't someone at Weir have to authorize the increased changes in kickbacks, er, "commissions"?

Nearly half, 15 out of 37 contracts were altered and that didn't arouse suspicion?

And who was the "agent acting on behalf of the group's subsidiaries" who received the money?

As always, follow the money.

Then we have some interesting additional information from The Scotsman.

The CBS report leaves out some interesting information that the Scotsman provides.

For instance:

Media reports earlier this year named Weir among hundreds of firms alleged to have paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

According to an article in the Guardian in May, the Saddam regime had insisted on a 10% mark-up on all supplies under the oil-for-food programme since the middle of 2000.

I'm not sure, but when was it decided that an investigation by Volker should be undertaken?

Weir, which has previously denied any anomalies, said the final recipient of the £4.2 million was unknown but it accepted “the sums may have been returned to Iraq”.

And what prompted Weir's change of heart on the matter?

After an internal review discovered evidence of anomalies, Weir called in independent legal advisers Herbert Smith to carry out a more detailed probe.

This investigation, which is ongoing, confirmed that irregular payments were made in relation to 15 of the contracts.

Now, here is the really interesting part left out of the CBS report.

Weir, which has former Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson on its board, was granted 37 contracts as part of the programme through its overseas business, Wesco Dubai.

Wow! Why leave that out? There is nothing, yet, to suggest Lord Robertson knew about any of this but it does raise the old eyebrows.

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