Former chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker released a list today of 2,200 companies that apparently bribed Saddam Hussein for access to contracts related to the United Nations oil-for-food program. Topping the list were such household names as Germany’s Siemens Corporation, Germany’s Daimler Chrysler, and Sweden’s Volvo. Yet, Richard Roth, reporting on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” began his piece on this story by focusing on Oscar Wyatt, Jr., an oil trader from Texas:
“More than 2,000 companies were accused of doing illegal business with Saddam Hussein feasting on the oil-for-food program. One prominent American businessman was Texas oil trader Oscar Wyatt, Jr., who in a case of bad timing for him, was also arraigned last week in federal court charged by the government with paying millions of dollars of kickbacks to win oil contracts with Iraq.”
As the report stated, Wyatt was indeed indicted last Friday. However, one has to wonder if Wyatt were from California instead of Texas if he would even have been mentioned in this report. Moreover, Roth waited until the end of the segment to inform the viewer that most of the companies identified by Volcker to have illegally participated in the oil-for-food program were from either France or Russia.
What follows is a full transcript of this report, as well as a video link.
Richard Roth: More than 2,000 companies were accused of doing illegal business with Saddam Hussein feasting on the oil-for-food program. One prominent American businessman according to the Volcker report was Texas oil trader Oscar Wyatt, Jr., who in a case of bad timing for him, was also arraigned last week in federal court charged by the government with paying millions of dollars of kickbacks to win oil contracts with Iraq. Wyatt often met with Saddam Hussein and opposed U.N. Sanctions on Iraq. Wyatt pled not guilty, and was released on bail set at $2.5 million. The corporate corruption really started in 2000 when Saddam said in effect, “If you want to play, you have to pay.”
Volcker: There were no oil exports for a while. And other companies stepped in, other middlemen stepped in. Front companies were made up and it proceeded. It seems to me at that point was where there was a real failure. That's where the program got corrupted.
Roth: The investigators say it was a global looting of the humanitarian program. companies from 66 nations, some household names. The report says a Daimler Chrysler employee paid $7,000 extra to Iraq on a contract violating U.N. sanctions. Volcker says the firm was unaware of the payment. The company said it could not comment because of pending investigations. A subsidiary of Volvo group of Sweden, Volvo CE, a maker of heavy equipment was listed as paying more than $300,000 in kickbacks in connection with contracts. The company told Volcker’s panel the conclusions are wrong and the evidence is unfamiliar to the firm. The panel says three Siemens subsidiaries paid kickbacks to the regime in order to get contracts. The company told Volcker's commission it's puzzled by the premature and unjustified findings. Most of the companies sited in the report are French or Russian. UN investigators remain perplexed why the UN system, member countries, and banks failed to stop the corruption even though they knew what was taking place.
Richard Roth, CNN, New York.