International community accused of accepting bribes from Saddam

Key points

• Iraqi newspaper lists 270 individuals, firms and organisations from 46 countries accused of taking Saddam’s bribes

• Bribery took place under ‘aegis’ of UN programme, claims ABC news

• Iraq’s Governing Council withholds information to be released only with other ‘dangerous documents’

• Russian foreign ministry denies involvement of country’s firms

Key quote

“There are documented money transfers” - Muwaffaq al-Rubaie

Story in full EXPLOSIVE documents that catalogue Saddam Hussein’s attempts to bribe senior foreign politicians are being kept secret by Iraq’s Governing Council, who fear the international scandal that their public release would trigger, a council member claimed yesterday.

Muwaffaq al-Rubaie told a Kuwaiti newspaper that the information would send shockwaves through the Arab world and beyond.

His comments come in the wake of an Iraqi newspaper report last month, which listed 270 individuals, firms and organisations, and accused them of receiving millions of barrels of oil from Saddam in bribes.

The story was also covered by ABC, the US news channel, who named a British public figure, a senior French official and the president of a Canadian oil company.

The governing council is investigating the newspaper’s allegations, but Mr Rubaie’s comments suggest that there could be many more damning documents to come.

Mr Rubaie said of the original newspaper allegations: "I can’t say if what has been published is true or not. I must confess that I have not seen it."

But he added: "I have personally seen some very strange and unbelievable things which condemn some Arab and foreign politicians and some Islamic personalities which Saddam used to deal with and tried to bribe. There are documented money-transfers. We don’t want to cause an uproar in the Arab world or outside it as a result of publishing these secret documents in our possession."

Mr Rubaie said the governing council would only make the information public with tonnes of other "very dangerous documents "that it was keeping under wraps. He gave no further details of what those allegations might be.

The allegations of bribery surfaced last week in the Baghdad newspaper al-Mada, one of the many publications that have sprung up in the wake of Saddam’s overthrow. Under the headline: "Presidents, politicians, journalists and parties accepted millions of barrels of oil from Saddam", the paper listed 270 individuals and organisations from 46 countries suspected of profiting from Iraqi oil sales. The names, it claimed, came from official documents.

ABC News, in the United States, has also printed a list of Iraqi oil contracts awarded to 270 individuals and organisations under "the aegis" of the United Nations’ oil-for-food programme.

The television company said the contracts gave those named the right to buy Iraqi oil at a discounted price.

The people involved could then sell the oil to a legitimate broker without ever taking delivery of it, making millions of pounds in profit from the transaction.

The accusations, which cannot be printed in detail in The Scotsman for legal reasons, have been vehemently denied by some of those accused.

On Monday, Russia’s foreign ministry denied claims some of its oil companies had received cash from Saddam’s regime.

It said: "Only those who know absolutely nothing about Iraqi oil export mechanisms under sanctions then in force can make such allegations."

But senior members of the Iraqi government insist that the allegations are genuine.

Abdul-Sahib Salman Qutub, the oil ministry under-secretary, said last week that the provisional government had documents proving the alleged bribes and threatened to "sue those who stole the money of the Iraqi people".

He added: "These documents show that the former regime spent lavishly Iraq’s wealth here and there on persons, politicians, heads of parties and journalists who were backing its corruption."

Entifad Qanbar, the Iraqi National Congress spokesman, said his party had the list of people allegedly bribed with oil, and held out the prospect of more allegations to come.

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