Galloway hit by US criminal investigation

GEORGE Galloway is under criminal investigation over allegations that he lied to the US Senate about his role in the Saddam Hussein oil-for-food bribery scandal, American prosecutors have disclosed.

The controversial MP now faces the full weight of the US justice system. Scotland on Sunday can reveal that Galloway has been referred to the US Department of Justice, two federal prosecutors and to the district attorney in Manhattan, New York, over claims that he has committed perjury.

Both the Department of Justice and the Manhattan district attorney confirmed that they were investigating the Senate's claims. The Respect MP told senators under oath in May that neither he nor anyone on his behalf had benefited from the oil-for-food regime conducted by Saddam.

Last week, however, two reports - one from the US Senate, the other from the Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) of the United Nations - claimed his wife and a close friend working in Iraq had received oil funds granted by Saddam for Galloway.

The chairman of the Senate Committee, Norm Coleman, sent a dossier containing both his evidence and that provided by the UN to prosecutors on Friday. As perjury is a felony in America, Galloway could face trial in front of a jury, and a prison sentence of up to five years.

The decision by Senators to send their claims to all levels of the US justice system: state, federal and local, is being seen as a clear attempt to ensure at least one prosecutor takes the case to a conclusion, and as further evidence of the determination of US officials to pursue Galloway through the courts.

They have also sent their report, with the findings by the IIC, to Sir Phillip Marr, the standards commissioner for the House of Commons, and to the Charity Commission for England and Wales. The Charities Commission has stated it wants to examine the claims that illegal Iraqi oil money was laundered through a charity - the Mariam Appeal - on which Galloway was a trustee. Galloway denies the appeal was operating as a charity.

It is understood the DA in Manhattan has been asked to investigate as many of the cash transfers linked to Galloway originated from New York, so putting the case in its jurisdiction.

The Department for Justice could carry out its own investigation on behalf of the state, under the authority of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Alternatively, Gonzalez could offer help to either federal prosecutors or the DA to help them pursue the case.

The district attorney in Manhattan, Robert Morgenthau, has a long record of pursuing cases involving white-collar crime, corruption and bribery.

A spokeswoman for Senator Norm Coleman confirmed that the path to prosecution of Galloway had now begun.

She said: "In light of the overwhelming evidence given, the sub-committee will refer the matter to the proper law enforcement authorities.

"In doing so, the sub-committee will refer evidence that Galloway's wife received $150,000 from oil allocations and that the Mariam appeal received $440,000 from oil allocations. They will also refer the additional $120,000 received by Galloway's wife contained in the IIC investigation." US senators are convinced they can prove their case against Galloway. Since May, the committee tracked down a series of bank payment slips it says prove that funds were being siphoned from the Iraqi oil-for-food scheme, through Galloway's business partner in Jordan, and benefiting his wife and press officer.

Senator Coleman has accused Galloway on six counts of lying to or misleading the US Senate. An official from the Department of Justice confirmed that the Senate's allegations would be examined

He said: "We're obligated to investigate any potentially criminal matter brought to our attention, review it and take it from there." A spokeswoman for the DA's office in Manhattan confirmed that it would also examine such a report.

However, Galloway remained defiant yesterday. He has already begun his fight back, claiming on Friday that Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein's former foreign minister, had rebutted the claims. Aziz's testimony to the Senate and to the UN was crucial in linking Galloway to oil payments.

Galloway said: "I welcome and call for and beg for them to charge me with perjury. The perjurers and liars are all in the White House and in the Senate. All I say is I will see them in court," he said.

There has been no evidence to suggest that Galloway personally benefited from any Iraqi oil deals.

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