French magistrate completes oil-for-food probe

13th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 13, 2007 (AFP) - A French judge has completed his investigation into the scandal-tainted UN oil-for-food program in Iraq and the role allegedly played by French executives, a source said Thursday.

PARIS, April 13, 2007 (AFP) - A French judge has completed his investigation into the scandal-tainted UN oil-for-food program in Iraq and the role allegedly played by French executives, a source said Thursday.

Judge Philippe Courroye completed work last week that concerned around 15 people in France, among them several directors of the oil group Total, including chief executive officer Christophe de Margerie.

The company had claimed no wrongdoing in its relations with Iraq under the UN programme.

An investigation ordered by then-UN secretary general Kofi Annan found in 2005 however that more than 2,000 companies from 60 countries had bribed Saddam's government for the right to sell Iraqi oil.

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

The Iraqi government, however, was allowed to decide who purchased the oil.

The program was set up to help Iraqis who suffered from punitive sanctions slapped on Saddam's regime after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Among the French figures who were investigated by Courroye starting in 2002 was former interior minister Charles Pasqua.

With the French investigating magistrate leaving his post to become a prosecutor, his findings are to be turned over to a colleague within a financial investigations unit.

That magistrate will then decide whether to refer the matter to the criminal division of the Tribunal de Grande Instance, which hears cases too serious to handle in lower courts.

The judge Courroye is also to leave his successor an ongoing investigation into 40 other French companies suspected of paying bribes to Saddam's regime within the framework of the UN programme.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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