Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Few, The Proud, The Honest

AWB Ltd. is an Australian wheat company, and the single largest payer of kickbacks to Saddam Hussein -- $221.7 million over four years in illigal "transporation" and "after-sales service" fees.

That money ended up not helping the people of Iran, but buying gold-plated toilets for Hussein's palaces, and diabolic torture devices for use on his enemies. The money also ended up being fully found out by Sir Terence Cole and his team of Aussie investigators, who cranked out 2,065 pages leading to recommended indictments of 11 AWB employees and one other.

Kudos for Australia, one of the few honest countries when it comes to the Oil for Food scoundrel. In an editorial today (subscribers only) WSJ lets us know the honesty tally:

Meanwhile, most other countries have done little or nothing to come clean. France, which was given preferential oil allocations, has only a lone prosecutor moving ahead, with little support from the Elysée Palace. Russia, which facilitated the oil allocations and blocked moves on the Security Council to investigate kickbacks, refused to assist Mr. Volcker, much less prosecute anyone. Ditto for China, which received huge oil allocations, and Vietnam, whose state-owned food companies paid kickbacks in exchange for business contracts.

Regarding the U.N., Mr. Cole notes that "The United Nations knew that Iraq was breaching sanctions by requiring payment of inland transport fees and surcharges or after-sales-service fees. It knew this between 1999 and 2003. . . It took no steps to publicize or warn member states of the Iraqi practices, and it took no steps to stop the practices." Mark it down as another coda to Kofi Annan's disastrous legacy as Secretary General.

The thing about crime: If you get away with it, you do it again. Count on France, China, Vietnam and the U.N. to do it again. Count on Aussies to think twice.

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