Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Following accusations issued by the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), British Member of Parliament George Galloway and Senator Charles Pasqua of France have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
George Galloway declared:
I’ve now had a chance to read the report which was compiled without this Senate committee asking me a single question about these absurd allegations. I repeat once more. I have never traded or benefited from any oil deals with Iraq.
One of the companies named, with ostensible links to me– Aredio Petroleum– I have never heard of until today and I have certainly had no dealings with. The other company, Middle East Advanced Semiconductors, was owned by Fawaz Zureikat, who was the chairman of the Mariam Appeal. It is well-known that Mr Zureikat traded with Iraq but he did not do so on my behalf. I have not received a penny piece or any oil voucher from Iraq, directly or indirectly.
You would have thought that natural justice would have demanded that these allegations would have– must have been!– put to me, but they haven’t been. Senator Joseph McCarthy would have been proud of this committee.
On May 17, Galloway appeared before the U.S. senatorial panel and vehemently denied any wrongdoing in a tone seldom used in a senatorial hearing. He accused the U.S. administration of creating a “smoke screen” to divert attention away from the situation in Iraq. He also declared, “The biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own government.”
Galloway denied receiving any money out of the scheme. Galloway demanded, “What counts is, where’s the money, senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars? The answer to that is nobody,” while glaring toward U.S. senator Norm Coleman (Republican from Minnesota), according to a New York Times report.
Galloway also accused the US senators, especially senator Coleman, of shoddy standards of justice. He claimed they have already ruled him guilty, and that they rely on dubious evidence and wrongful or coerced testimonies.
You have my name on lists provided to you… by the convicted bank robber and fraudster and con man Ahmed Chalabi, who many people, to their credit, in your country now realize played a decisive role in leading your country into the disaster in Iraq.
In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison1, in Bagram Air Base [Afghanistan], in Guantanamo Bay — including, if I may say, British citizens being held in those places — I’m not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those circumstances.
1. Alluding to the acknowledged Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse.
Charles Pasqua also denies any personal wrongdoing in the case. Pasqua indicated that he was “serene” and that he hoped the investigations by the U.S. Senate would probe the matter to the bottom.
Pasqua judged the situation detrimental to relationships between the United States and France. For this reason, Pasqua declared that he had asked the president of the French Senate for the creation of an investigation commission, wishing that the French and U.S. senatorial commissions should collaborate.
Pasqua declared himself convinced that misconduct took place in the oil-for-food program, and that it was probable that some French people were involved. He then wished that they should be sought and prosecuted. “If one wants to find the origin of the financial streams, one can do so.” Pasqua mentioned the Swiss company Genmar, which the U.S. report claims to have served as Pasqua’s intermediary.
Pasqua denied information presented as facts in the report. For instance, he denied having met Tariq Aziz, former Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq.
Pasqua pointed out that nothing in the senatorial evidence indicates that he had benefited from vouchers, only that one of his former advisers, Bernard Guillet, had received oil allocations in his name. From December 2000 onwards, allocations meant for Pasqua ceased and were replaced by allocations to Bernard Guillet.
Guillet was arrested by French authorities in April in connection with abuses under the oil-for-food program. Mr Guillet has been put under formal investigation for allegedly participating in a system of occult kickbacks and fees between 1996 and 2001 involving major French companies, including Total. He is suspected of having received amounts of money without good explanation from an intermediary specialized in the resale of Iraqi oil.