February 4, 2005
Anyone who stole from the UN’s oil-for-food program for Iraq must stand trial and the money be repaid to the Iraqi people, Iraq’s Human Rights Minister said.
Bakhtiar Amin praised Thursday’s report by Paul Volcker, the former head of the US Federal Reserve charged with probing corruption in the program, and said it revealed that even UN dignitaries were not above robbing the poor for profit.
“It shows that some so-called dignitaries had not an iota of shame in their bones, no conscience and no morals,” Mr Amin told Reuters in an interview.
“They profited as parasites on the misery of an impoverished nation.”
Benon Sevan, a Cypriot who ran the humanitarian program, was accused in the report of repeatedly soliciting and getting Iraqi oil allocations for a trading firm connected to the family of former UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
The senior UN diplomat’s conduct was “ethically improper and seriously undermined the integrity of the United Nations,” Mr Volcker’s interim report into the running of the now-defunct $67 billion program said.
The oil-for-food program, which began in December 1996 and ended in November 2003, allowed Saddam Hussein’s government to sell oil to buy humanitarian goods.
It was intended to ease the life of ordinary Iraqis under 1990 UN sanctions.
Mr Amin said “those proved to be involved should be rapidly brought to justice”.