03-Nov-2005

Volcker And The Oil-for-Food Probe

I refuse to believe anyone who looks like Natwar Singh could have ever taken kickbacks. I mean, surely that permanent angry look must stand for something? Most crooks flash wide smiles as they are led away by the constabulary. Not Mr Singh. He has something more serious on his mind than money and oil and even food perhaps.

If you are looking for more, let's say, mundane reasons for why he could not be involved, The Hindu has them here. I'll give a short excerpt here:
The second major problem with the investigative exercise was the composition of the "Independent Inquiry Committee." It was headed by Paul A.Volcker, former chairman of the chief occupying power's Federal Reserve Board. The two other members were Justice Richard J. Goldstone, a former judge of the South African Supreme Court and Constitutional Court who had made his mark in the law during the days of apartheid; and Mark Pieth, a Swiss law professor specialising in the tracking of transnational corruption, money laundering, and organised crime.

This composition explains the part Spanish inquisitional, part modern investigative, and, in consequence, biased and insufficiently transparent approach of the Committee. It explains the snap judgments and the loaded vocabulary of the report, starting with "manipulation" of the OFFP, "illicit income," and "humanitarian kickbacks." Functioning in the shadow of the U.S.-led military occupation of Iraq, the exercise fails to come clean on all its data sources, above all on the evidentiary basis of its listing of non-contractual political and other beneficiaries of Iraqi oil sales.
As an aside, the right-wing in the US has been tracking this probe with great anticipation. They don't want the UN to exist as it is. The president's nomination to the UN, Mr Bolton, has even said that nothing much would have been lost even if the top 13 floors (or thereabouts) of the UN building in New York is bombed. Mr Volcker himself is not very much in favour of it. This report could be so much red meat thrown to the packs.

Also, this episode has thrown up another joker. The reporter of the article asks him lots of question but one: why was he offered those millions by Saddam? What was the quid pro quo?

PS: I had Mr Bolton's comment on the UN wrong what he actually said was :
"If you lost 10 storeys, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
More fun quotes here.