Former aide ‘claims Iraq offered Pasqua oil bribe’
PARIS, May 18 (AFP) - Iraq tried to compensate former French interior minister Charles Pasqua in the late 1990s with millions of barrels of oil for his helpful attitude toward Baghdad, Le Monde newspaper reported Wednesday.
The French daily said a former aide to Pasqua who is under investigation in France in connection with the UN oil-for-food programme in Iraq, Bernard Guillet, told an examining magistrate that Pasqua had been offered oil allocations.
Guillet reportedly said former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz had told him “that Iraq wanted to thank Pasqua for the role he played in 1993 when he organized the first visit for a high-level official in France”.
Aziz then allegedly told Guillet that Saddam Hussein wanted to thank Pasqua with oil allocations, Le Monde reported.
But a source close to the investigation said it was still unclear whether the 78-year-old Pasqua – now a French senator – had actually received the oil, as alleged by a US Senate probe.
Last week, a US Senate panel accused Pasqua, along with the controversial British lawmaker George Galloway, of taking massive oil allocations as kickbacks in the 1990s from Saddam’s regime under the UN oil-for-food programme.
The USD 64 billion UN scheme, which ran from 1996 to 2003, allowed Baghdad, which was under international sanctions, to sell limited quantities of oil so it could buy food and medicines for the Iraqi people.
The US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations based its report on what it said were Iraqi oil ministry documents and the testimony of senior officials in Saddam’s regime, ousted in the US-led invasion in March 2003.
Both Pasqua and Galloway have vehemently denied the allegations.
Guillet denied ever receiving any oil allocations himself, and contested charges that he had “served as an intermediary so that Charles Pasqua could receive such allocations”.
But he did admit to French magistrate Philippe Courroye that he had met with Iraqi officials tasked with the commercialization of Iraqi oil.
Last month, Guillet, 59, was placed under judicial investigation in France – one step shy of formal charges – as part of a corruption probe connected with the UN oil-for-food programme.
French investigators believe Guillet received commissions from a middleman who brokered the resale of Iraqi oil.
But when questioned on April 28 by Courroye, Guillet said the documents the French judge was using for his probe were suspect, adding: “I think the Americans created false documents.”
The French probe is largely based on information gathered by the independent commission of inquiry into the oil-for-food programme led by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.
Pasqua served twice as France’s interior minister – from 1986 to 1998 and again from 1993 to 1995. He is best known for pushing through a series of anti-immigration laws.
The US panel said in its report that Pasqua sought to conceal his involvement because he “feared political scandals”.
Pasqua said Monday he had been targeted by the US Senate as a way to discredit French President Jacques Chirac, with whom the former minister was once close.
Subject: French News