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Iraqis Sue Companies Over Oil For Food

From Al Jazeera:

An Iraqi woman holds her baby as she waits to receive food from a rationing program inherited from the United Nations oil-for-food program in Baghdad, April 2006. An official inquiry into the corruption that riddled the UN oil-for-food program in Iraq has cleared the Australian government but cited 12 top executives for bribing Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Iraqis sue over oil-for-food fraud

A report in Australia said AWB paid $220 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s government

Iraqi citizens have filed a $200 million lawsuit against two companies, saying they were cheated out of humanitarian goods under the UN oil-for-food programme.

Friday’s lawsuit, brought by the plaintiffs, claims the bank, BNP Paribas, and AWB Limited, a goods provider, cheated the citizens of Iraq from June 10, 1999, to June 3, 2003.

The civil action sought damages under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Residents of the Irbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah areas of Iraq claimed they did not receive the full benefits to which they were entitled.

The lawsuit said: "The companies stole from the Iraqis by engaging in a brazen kickback scheme in which money earmarked for the benefit of Iraqis were instead improperly transferred into the coffers of Saddam Hussein’s corrupt Iraqi regime or used to indemnify goods suppliers, including AWB, for the bribes they had paid Iraq."

The lawsuit said the companies disguised and misrepresented the kickbacks to make them appear to be legitimate costs.

It also accused them of knowing or recklessly disregarding that money was being paid illegally to the government of Saddam.

BNP paid as much as $1.5bn in kickbacks to Saddam’s government while AWB paid more than $200 million, the lawsuit claims.

Edwina Frawley, a BNP spokeswoman, said she had no immediate comment on Friday.

BNP is headquartered in Paris, France, but has offices in the US, including New York.

A government-commissioned report in Australia was released several weeks ago saying that AWB paid $220m in kickbacks to Saddam’s government to secure lucrative wheat contracts under the oil-for-food scheme.

Under the programme, AWB, which had sold wheat to Iraq since 1948, sold 6.8m tonnes of wheat to Iraq, receiving more than $2.3bn in payments, the lawsuit said.

"It’s the first I’ve heard of it," Peter McBride, AWB spokesman said of the lawsuit. "It would be an ill-conceived action, and if it’s brought to fruition, it would be vigorously defended."

The lawsuit says the plaintiffs are seeking action in New York in part because the defendants kept offices and did substantial business in the city.

In October 2005, a UN-backed investigation said in a report that about 2,200 companies in the oil-for-food programme, including corporations in the US, France, Germany and Russia, paid a total of $1.8bn in kickbacks and illicit surcharges to Saddam’s government.

Good for them! Hopefully they will go after the mastermind himself, Kofi Annan.

Of course we have to go to Al Jazeera to hear the news.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, December 23rd, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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