Cheat-Seeking Missles

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Jail For An Oil-For-Food Fat Cat

Look at Oscar Wyatt.

Does he look like a man that needs to put more food on his table? Knowing that he married a rich Texas socialite years ago and used wealth to gain friendships with the world's most glittery jet set, do you suppose that in his 80s he has a need to amass more money?

Well, to him, the answer was yes -- so much so that he was more than willing to deprive sick and hungry Iraqis of food and medicine so he could steal from the U.N.'s disastrous oil-for-food program.

Yesterday, after professing innocence for years, Wyatt plead guilty to bribing his way into Saddam's pig trough. Says the Daily Telegraph:

Wyatt, 83, whose socialite wife is a friend of Lord Lloyd Webber and Sir Elton John, told a judge in Manhattan that he agreed in December 2001 to advise others to pay a surcharge into an Iraqi account in Jordan, violating a UN stipulation banning direct payments to Iraq.

In a plea deal with prosecutors, Wyatt faces between 18 and 24 months in prison, unless the judge decides otherwise when he is sentenced in November.

He must also forfeit $11 million (£5.5 million). “I didn’t want to waste any more time at 83 years old fooling with this operation,” Wyatt said outside court.

“The quicker I get it over with the better.”

I, I, I. I didn't want to waste time. I want to get it over with. It doesn't appear the man has learned anything from his experience ... even though there's now a good chance he will end his days in a prison cell.

As with all things U.N.-oriented, Claudia Rosette provides the best background, and here's her tally on Oil-For-Food convictions thus far:

With the Sopranos going off the air, it’s time someone launched a series based on life at the United Nations. Don’t worry about all that tedious diplomacy — between the cash, real estate, travel, fine dining and family drama there’s more than enough material for a long run of lively seasons. Here’s just a taste:

We now have the verdict, just in, at the Sanjaya Bahel bribery trial in New York’s Southern District — another UN official: Guilty. Over the past three weeks the jury has heard details of how Bahel while running the UN commodity procurement section helped a friend get $100 million worth of UN contracts. In exchange, Bahel got bargain rates on a big, fancy apartment near the UN, cash, travel and a laptop.

This follows the conviction in March of the former head of the UN General Assembly budget oversight committee, Vladimir Kuznetsov, who was found to have been laundering kickbacks obtained by another UN procurement officer, Alexander Yakovlev — who pled guilty in 2005. In a sentimental touch, both these UN officials named their offshore front companies after their children.

The Kuznetsov conviction came hard on the heels of the indictment this past January of the former head of the UN Oil-for-Food program, Benon Sevan, who despite Kofi Annan’s assurances managed to slip out of New York during the investigations and has been residing, safe from extradition, in a penthouse apartment on Cyprus. Sevan maintains that he is innocent. According to the UN’s own investigation, Sevan used money from Saddam Hussein’s oil deals, picked up in cash from Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s brother-in-law in Switzerland, to bankroll his Manhattan restaurant bills and meet the mortgage payments on a second home in the Hamptons.

Last summer brought the conviction of South Korean businessman Tongsun Park, for conspiring to bribe UN officials on behalf of Saddam’s Iraq to rig Oil-for-Food from the beginning. In that case, court testimony included tales of stacks of cash stuffed into underwear, socks, briefcases and shopping bags — plus a Christmas trip with some of that cash to Las Vegas. Plus, of course, the $988,885 check bankrolled by Baghdad and delivered in 1997 by Park to UN eminence Maurice Strong ... who has not been accused of any wrong-doing and says he is innocent. Maurice Strong turned out, in violation of UN rules, to have been quietly employing his own stepdaughter in his UN office. But since, unlike Paul Wolfowitz, Strong is definitely not an American neo-conservative, apparently that was of no deep interest to the ethicists of the UN system.

So there you have it, the latest on the U.N., a.k.a., King Midas of the Sewers. Sure, there was a lot of altruism at its foundation, but now it seems that everything the U.N. touches turns to ... well you know.

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