The first conviction in the oil-for-food scandal has been announced. No, it is not that of a high UN official or an important European politician. Quelle idée!
An Iraqi-American businessman, Samir Vincent, who has run a Northern Virginia energy trading company called Phoenix International LLC, has pleaded guilty in Manhattan to illegally lobbying US government officials on Saddam’s behalf and getting paid in millions of dollars of cash payment and oil allocations under the now infamous scheme.
Mr Vincent could get as much as twenty-eight years in gaol for acting as an unregistered foreign agent, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by doing business with Iraq and making false statements in his tax returns, but Attorney-General John Ashcroft announced that the accused was co-operating to the hilt with all the various investigations into the scandal. Singing like a canary is the way it used to be described in old thrillers and nothing wrong with that.
It is, of course, important to be able to trace the exact operation of the gigantic fraud and the way it was used to campaign against UN sanctions and to secure various extremely advantages for Saddam, his psychopathic family and other friends and relations.
Still, some of us are looking forward to other court appearances: that of UN officials who, at best, looked the other way and, at worst, took a rake-off themselves; that of high-and-mighty politicians and political lobbyists who wrung their hands at the plight of the Iraqi children as a result of the sanctions while happily pocketing money that should have been used to help them; that of journalists and other Saddam supporters who wrote stories about the heroism of the Iraqi people in the face of western aggression, while enjoying the goodies that had been intended to help those people.
Well, one can dream.