Skip to comments.How Saddam hid his dirty money - Billions in oil sales stashed overseas
Posted on 05/04/2003 2:04:49 AM PDT by kattracks
In the hunt for Saddam Hussein's billions, investigators have identified five networks of more than 100 companies used to launder money skimmed from Iraqi oil sales.
Saddam's gangster regime set up shell companies in Switzerland, Jordan, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg and Panama, according to investigators.
Those company networks and their banking affiliations were used to enrich the former Iraqi strongman, his sons Uday and Qusay, and other family members.
"Ultimately, the money was stolen from the Iraqi people," said Taylor Griffin, spokesman for the Treasury Department, which is heading the government's laundering probe along with U.S. Customs, the Secret Service and various intelligence agencies.
Last month, investigators isolated $1.2 billion in previously unknown assets outside Iraq, Griffin said. The assets include cash, real estate and diamonds held in the names of the companies controlled by Saddam.
With names like Jaraco SA and Dynatrade SA, the companies used major banks in Switzerland, France, Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to conduct transactions, according to investigators.
The intricate web was managed at the top by about 20 of Saddam's relatives and friends, who spent most of their time outside Iraq.
Possible road map
The mastermind of this vast criminal enterprise was believed to be Saddam's half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti. Now in American custody, he could provide a road map to Saddam's hidden wealth.
Hasan, the five of clubs in the U.S. deck of most-wanted Iraqis, was Iraq's ambassador to the UN in Geneva for 10 years, ending in 1998.
During that time, he helped set up and manage a money-laundering network that was among the most sophisticated in the world, said investigators.
A second manager was Tareq Aziz, Iraq's Foreign Minister, according to a Treasury Department source. Aziz, also in U.S. custody, traveled widely under diplomatic immunity.
Estimates of the hidden loot range as high as $40 billion, but Saddam's personal trove "is in the single-digit billions, not more than 10," according to investigator John Fawcett.
"I'm kind of conservative in calculating his wealth," said Fawcett, who has focused on Saddam's finances for more than three years, most recently on behalf of Kreindler & Kreindler, a Park Ave. law firm.
The firm is trying pinpoint the links between Saddam's assets and financing of Al Qaeda. Once identified, those assets could be seized, recovered in court proceedings and distributed to families of those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"We think Saddam's laundered money was used in part to provide financial support to Al Qaeda, and we're looking at billions of dollars hidden in financial institutions and companies," said lawyer James Kreindler.
One clue as to the size of Saddam's laundered legacy was found two weeks ago $780 million in makeshift vaults in a palace compound and another cache of $112 million found in dog kennels on the grounds.
The cash was in $100 bills, and in the dog kennels, there were 200 aluminum boxes with $4 million in each box, all sealed with tags reading Bank of Jordan.
Customs and Secret Service agents in Baghdad are tracing the serial numbers to learn the origin of the bulk cash shipments, said Customs spokesman Dean Boyd.
The serial numbers on the bills will reveal which U.S. bank first received the cash from the Federal Reserve. From there, it may be possible to trace how the money got to Saddam's palace.
"We've also uncovered a lot of documents on Saddam's financial apparatus," Boyd said. For more than 20 years, Saddam skimmed 5% of just about everything that moved in and out of Iraq.
"Kickbacks were everywhere," said Fawcett.
Sulfur and fertilizer exports and imports of tobacco and alcoholic beverages were among the items subject to the rakeoff, according to the British Foreign Office and the Coalition for International Justice.
The rakeoff in 2000 alone included monthly imports of 300 million cigarettes, 38,000 bottles of whiskey, 230,000 cans of beer, 120,000 bottles of vodka and almost 19,000 bottles of wine, according to Peter Hain, a British foreign office official.
Saddam also fleeced pilgrims to Iraqi Shiite shrines in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, making them travel in buses owned by the Al-Hoda company, controlled by Uday Hussein, and stay in designated hotels.
A nine-day pilgrimage costs at least $900, much of which went to Saddam's family, according to the coalition.
But the principal source of the regime's skimmed revenue was oil exports, including more than $6.6 billion from the UN-sponsored oil-for-food program, General Accounting Office investigators found.
That program involved a direct exchange of exported Iraqi oil for food and medicine. It was part of UN sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to prevent the diversion of oil proceeds to weapons.
In the last five years, the regime managed to duck the UN sanctions with a large-scale smuggling operation involving shipments through Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Persian Gulf countries.
During March 2002, Iraq smuggled out between 325,000 and 480,000 barrels a day, according to the General Accounting Office.
Barges, tankers, pipelines and trucks were used to get the oil out past UN inspectors' scrutiny, and at one point, an estimated 45,000 Turkish truckers were on the roads, loaded up with oil, the agency said.
Until the sanctions were imposed, Iraqi oil exports were not monitored, and all were subject to the 5% kickback. In the early years of Saddam's 25-year reign, Iraq exported as much as 3.2 million barrels per day.
The kickback-laundering system is essentially quite simple. Oil buyers, whether companies or countries, bought Iraqi oil from Saddam-controlled trading companies located outside the country.
The trading companies would forward 95% of the money to the Iraqi oil ministry and send Saddam's 5% to shell companies outside Iraq, investigators said.
Directors of those shell companies would deposit the 5% in company bank accounts, and the money was effectively laundered. Swiss and French lawyers did the paperwork.
Gold, artworks, hotels, construction and metal fabrication concerns, money market accounts, commodity trading companies and publishing are among Saddam's laundered investments.
Kroll Associates, a private investigative company, and the International Campaign to Indict Iraqi War Criminals, a U.S.-funded organization based in England, have identified other key figures in the financial network.
Hussam Rassam, a 67-year-old Iraqi businessman who established residency in Switzerland in 1987, was the administrator of the Saddam family pension fund, valued at $41.6 billion in 1990, according to a Kroll report.
Hussam "was appointed [administrator] in 1989 after the execution of his predecessor for skimming funds," said the report.
A telephone call to Hussam's home in the Swiss Canton of Vaud was answered by a French-speaking woman who told a reporter, "Mr. Hussam isn't here."
Whether Saddam and his sons are alive remains an open question, but it's unlikely they could ever again enjoy their over-the-top opulent lifestyles.
Previously frozen Iraqi assets include $20 million in the Cayman Islands, $85 million in the Bahamas and $14 million in Japan.
"What's the total, and where is it all?" asked Griffin. "I wish I knew."
Originally published on May 3, 2003
The Electronic Trading Opportunity ETO (tm) System ETO is a copyright of the UNTPDC, All rights reserved. Ref:O2 Company Name: Jaraco S.A. Commerce de marchandises Contact Person: Bakhtiar, Bahmann Title: Mr. Position: Director Country: Switzerland City: Geneva Postal Code: GE 1207 Address: 45, route de Frontenex Phone: +41-22-7865682 Products HS Code: S8999 services n.e.c. Size: SMALL Reference Code: 19920127 ETO Date: 950127 Year of Establishment: 1981 Number of staff: 1
Wonder if it's the same Jaraco, SA. Look at the number of staff? LOL.
Never cheat a cheat!
According to the Public Registry, Republic of Panama (R of P), the firm Montana Management, Inc. is part of a network of firms belonging to Saddam Husein. Montana Management, Inc. was registered in the Republic of Panama in 1994 by Luis Alberto Hincapie, lawyer (a Panamanian lawyer). Members of the first board of directors were: Alluidin H. Alwan, Mounwafak I. Abdul Karim, and Usan A. Saleh, all who reside in Baghdad.
A spokesperson for the Public Minister (R of P) stated that the U.S. authorities have not submitted formal requests to investigate Montana Management, Inc. bank accounts and properties.
Can't wait till the map points to the NYT/CNN/DNC connection.