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UN report says Volvo, DaimlerChrysler among those who paid Saddam kickbacks

2005-10-27 09:33:00

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UN report says Volvo, DaimlerChrysler among those who paid Saddam kickbacks
12:32 PM EDT Oct 27

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - About half of the 4,500 companies in the UN oil-for-food program, including Volvo and DaimlerChrysler, paid $1.8 billion US in kickbacks and illicit surcharges to Saddam Hussein's government, a UN-backed investigation said in a report released Thursday.

The report alleged that Jean-Bernard Merrimee, France's former UN ambassador, received $165,725 US in commissions from oil allocations awarded to him by the Iraqi government. He is now under investigation by the French authorities.

"While serving as a special adviser to the secretary general of the UN, with the rank of undersecretary general, Jean-Bernard Merrimee began receiving oil allocations that would ultimately total approximately six million barrels from the government of Iraq," the report said.

Other so-called "political beneficiaries" included British legislator George Galloway; Roberto Formigoni, president of the Lombardi region in Italy, and Rev. Jean-Marie Benjamin, a priest who once worked as an assistant to the Vatican secretary of state and became an activist for lifting Iraqi sanctions.

The report from the committee probing claims of wrongdoing in the $64-billion US program indicates that about 2,200 companies and many people who opposed sanctions against Iraq participated in extensive manipulation of the UN oil-for-food program.

It says, for example, that Brussels-based Volvo Construction Equipment paid $317,000 in extra fees to the Iraqi government on a $6.4-million contract.

Beatrice Cardon, a spokeswoman, said she was unaware the company was listed in the UN report, or what the alleged payments were for.

"I have no clue. This is the first I hear about it," Cardon said.

Germany-based automaker DaimlerChrysler, meanwhile, appears to have paid just $7,000 on a contract worth $70,000. DaimlerChrysler AG didn't immediately return a call seeking comment from its offices in Stuttgart, Germany.

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