150 Foreign Companies Pursued over Oil-for-Food Program

A legal adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on Sunday that the Iraqi government is currently pursuing more than 150 foreign companies accused of corruption in the Oil-for-Food program, according to an AKnews report.

Fadel Mohammed told the agency that the government is determined to bring these companies to justice, adding that there are a number of additional companies currently under investigation.

The Oil-for-Food Program was instituted to relieve the suffering of civilians as the result of the sanctions imposed on Iraq from the UN following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

Over $65 billion worth of Iraqi oil was sold on the world market during the program. About $46 billion of these funds were intended to provide for the humanitarian needs of Iraqi people such as food and medicine in the context of international economic sanctions.

Throughout its existence, the program was dogged by accusations that some of its profits were unlawfully diverted to the government of Iraq and to UN officials.

Contracts to sell Iraq humanitarian goods through the Oil-for-Food Program were allegedly given to companies and individuals based on their willingness to kick back a certain percentage of the contract profits to the Iraqi regime.

Companies that sold commodities via the Oil-for-Food Program were said to be overcharging by up to 10%, with part of the overcharged amount being diverted into private bank accounts for Saddam Hussein and other regime officials and the other part being kept by the supplier.

International aid organizations reported that in the course of the program, more than 500,000 Iraqi children died of malnutrition because of the mishandling of funds.

Following the $22m fine imposed on Scottish engineering group Weir (LSE: WEIR) in December for bribery related to the program, it has been annouced that some of this fine will be used to support development programs in Iraq.

(Source: AKnews, Daily Express)

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