Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Did Condi know about UN oil-for-food scandal while employed by Chevron?

Report: Chevron settling Iraq oil probe dating back to Condi Rice's tenure on its board

US energy giant Chevron is preparing to settle a government probe into kickbacks under the now-defunct oil-for-food UN program for Iraq.

The New York Times said the US oil giant was to make an acknowledgement that it should have known about kickbacks -- in the guise of surchages -- on its Iraqi oil purchases, as part of an expected agreement with US prosecutors likely to include fines of up to 30 million dollars.

The Times reports that the Iraqi oil export surcharges were begun in 2000 by Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization. "At the time," write Claudio Gatti and Jad Mouwad, "Condoleezza Rice, now secretary of state, was a member of Chevron's board and led its public policy committee, which oversaw areas of potential political concerns for the company."

Rice left Chevron's board in early 2001, after President Bush tapped her to be his national security advisor.

The California-headquartered firm, America's second largest oil group, could not be reached for comment by AFP. An official for the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which the Times said was involved in the probe, declined to comment.

The newspaper said the probe relates to tens of millions of barrels of Iraqi oil that Chevron purchased between 2000 and 2002 under the former United Nations oil-for-food program.

Under the UN program, which ran from 1996 until just after the US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein in March 2003, Iraq was allowed to sell oil and use the revenues to purchase humanitarian supplies.

Citing government investigators and uncovered documents, the Times said about 20 million dollars in "surcharges" were paid on Iraqi oil shipments bought by Chevron.

Chevron reportedly purchased much of the Iraqi oil it bought during this time through intermediaries, which included small oil traders.

US energy group El Paso Corp. agreed in early February to pay 7.7 million dollars in penalties related to illegal surcharges on Iraqi oil contracts under the UN program. El Paso agreed to pay the penalties without admitting or denying any wrongdoing.

Government investigators claimed that El Paso indirectly funneled 5.5 million dollars in "illegal surcharges" to Iraq related to oil purchases from third parties.

The Times report, available in full at this link, added that Chevron was still in negotiations with the government and that a final agreement could still be weeks away.

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