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Oil-For-Food Investigators To Cooperate With Prosecutors

(RFE/RL) 28 October 2005 -- The independent committee that has concluded its investigation into abuses in the United Nations' oil-for-food program with Iraq has pledged to cooperate with any criminal prosecutor in any country who might want to pursue charges in connection with the probe.

Prosecutors in the United States and Switzerland have already launched criminal investigations, while French and Italian prosecutors are reported to have requested information relating to possible probes.

The independent inquiry, in its final report released on 27 October, accused more than 2,200 companies -- or about half of all those that participated in the oil-for-food program -- of making illegal payments or kickbacks worth some $1.8 billion to Saddam Hussein's regime.

The report said Russian companies and some politicians were heavily involved the abuses, with Russian companies contracting for about one-third of the $64 billion dollars worth of oil that was sold under the program from 1996 to 2003.

Also implicated were politicians from France and Britain, and companies and individuals from France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States. Prominent corporations such as Siemens, DaimlerChrysler, and Daewoo were among those accused of paying kickbacks.

The report said the United Nations was responsible for a lack of transparency in the program that made it easier for the abuses to occur.