Thursday, April 28, 2005

A pearl necklace: the passive-aggressive network behind the Oil-for-Food scandal

Il Sole 24 Ore’s Claudio Gatti writes in today’s FT on the links found between Charles Pasqua and the Ba’athists in Iraq. The UN’s Volcker inquiry, as the Canada Free Press has been exposing in numerous ivestigations, is looking like it was ginned up as a cover-up mechanism which those in the ‘axis of nuance’ are familiar with. Beginning with the publication of the Al-Mada list, information is emerging on a great many western figures and their connections with the Saddaam Hussein’s regime under the veil of the UN’s post-war terms imposed on the Iraqi regime.

«For Years French magistrates have been investigating his [Pasqua’s] financial records, probing allegations that he received bribes and illicit funds generated by influence-trafficking and other activities, including arms sales to Angola.
Mr. Pasqua has never been convicted of any wrong-doing. Indeed lad September he won a seat in the French Senate – a position which confers immunity against prosecution. »
His diplomatic advisor, Bernard Guillet figures greatly in the matter, acting as an intermediary between the top (Pasqua) and the fixer in this case, Elias Firzli, a lawyer and a Lebanese Christian currently living in the Be’qa valley, an sort of fiefdom of the Hibzallah (the ‘Army of God’).

«The documents [obtained by Phillippe Courroye, a French investigator] shows that middlemen – including a little known Christian Lebanese lawyer and commentator named Elias Firzli – received and traded a total of about 13m barrels [of crude oil]. The documents also suggest that Mr. Firzli paid more than $1m in oil-related kickbacks to Baghdad, payments that would have been in violation of French law and UN sanctions.

Mr. Pasqua’s role has come to light as separate oil-for-food investigations – one by the UN committee led by Paul Volcker, the other by the US Congress –

Mr. Pasqua has had a long history of friendly relations with Iraq as well as contacts with Iraqi intelligence.
Like many other members of the French political establishment, which saw Baghdad as an ally, he had contacts with officials of Mr. Hussein’s regime.

A spokesman for Mr. Pasqua, meanwhile, said France “made a mistake” when it joined the coalition against Mr. Hussein in the first Gulf war three years earlier and that “the time has come to return to Iraq, our natural ally in the Gulf”

Between autumn 1999 and autumn 2000 – the period in which Mr. Pasqua received three oil allocations – Mr. Firzli made payments of approximately $300,000 to a bank account in the name of Guillet. UN investigators also found also found records that suggest both Genmar and Mr. Firzli paid kickbacks as demanded by the regime from 2000. According to Somo’s records, between December 2001 and February 2002 Mr. Firzli paid more than $1.1m in so-called “surcharges” for both his own and Mr. Guillet’s allocation.

Reached by telephone in Lebanon’s Beka’a valley where he now lives, Mr. Firzli said: “[It is] my conclusion that I should not talk.”»

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