Thursday, November 17, 2005

Swiss investigate Oil-for-Food companies

2,253 companies to be exact.

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The Swiss Federal Prosecutor is investigating companies named in a United Nations report for possible violations of trade embargos against Iraq or illegal payments to Saddam Hussein as part of an aid program.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in Bern has asked the prosecutor to examine whether criminal proceedings against the companies should be opened, said Rita Baldegger, a spokeswoman for the secretariat.

``I can confirm that we got the letter and now, of course, we are looking into the matter,'' said Hansjuerg Mark Wiedmer, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office in Bern, in a telephone interview. Wiedmer and Baldegger declined to name companies.

A U.N. investigation found 2,253 companies paid illegal kickbacks to Iraq to win business from the aid program, which was designed to enable Saddam's government to sell oil to pay for humanitarian needs, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who led the report, said last month.

Already before the request, the prosecutor had started ``criminal proceedings in the oil for food case having to do with money laundering and corruption,'' said Wiedmer.

So if you were involved in the Oil-for-Food scandal and work for the UN you'll get a slap on the wrist, otherwise you're screwed. I'll wait until they start prosecuting UN officials, but the prosecutor's challenge will be hanging on the to documents which are supposed to be returned to original sources, unless the UN intervenes.

This could get interesting. Wagers on whether UN allows prosecutors to continue possession of thes incriminating documents and for how long?