Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
-- U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and John Ensign (R-Nevada) today introduced legislation laying the groundwork for a full-scale, thorough investigation into alleged corruption at the United Nation’s oil-for-food program. Without a proper accounting, U.S. contributions to the U.N. general budget would be cut by 10 percent in FY 2005 and 20 percent in FY 2006.
“Congress has an independent duty and obligation to investigate how the oil-for-food program affected U.N. politics and helped prop up Saddam’s regime,” said Graham. “At first glance, it appears Saddam’s regime had the power to declare financial winners and losers within the U.N. community. It is important that we find out exactly how the U.N. managed this program before we consider giving them more authority over Iraq’s reconstruction.”
Created in 1995 by the U.N. Security Council, the oil-for-food program was originally intended to provide the Iraqi people with humanitarian relief while maintaining Gulf-war related sanctions. Oil revenues were supposed to be kept away from Saddam’s regime and held in a U.N.-controlled escrow account.
The U.S. General Accounting Office estimates the former Iraqi regime garnered $10.7 billion in illegal oil revenues from the program from which it provided kickbacks to Iraqi and U.N. officials. The U.N. received about $1.4 billion from the program.
On January 25, 2004 an Iraqi newspaper published a list of 270 individuals and entities that allegedly received oil vouchers from Saddam Hussein under the program including the Director Benon Sevan.
The legislation Graham supports:
- Requires the U.N. to allow full access to documents and internal records so the United States General Accounting Office can conduct an audit of the oil-for-food program;
- Requires the U.N. to make documents available to law enforcement authorities of any U.N. member nation who requests them;
- Requires the U.N. to waive immunity from the U.S. judicial system;
- Requires any official who financially benefited from the oil-for-food program to repay the full amount to the new Iraqi government.
“Those who are guilty of past abuses should not be allowed to have authority over the future of Iraq,” said Graham. “It is my belief we need a full and accurate accounting of how the oil-for-food program operated and who may have benefited financially. There’s no doubt that we have way more questions right now than we do answers. This legislation would allow us to have access to the documents that can help us begin to answer those questions.”
Graham is also of forming a Working Group in the Senate to investigate the U.N. oil-for-food program. Details of the Working Group, will be released in the near future.