George Galloway's Mariam Appeal, the campaign he set up to oppose UN sanctions on Iraq, received at least £230,000 in improper donations, the Charity Commission will report today. The money came from the Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat, chairman of the charity, after he paid illicit kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime in exchange for a big contract under the oil-for-food programme, according to the report.Well, well, what a surprise. After all, there have so far been, what, three or four reports that showed money going into the Mariam Appeal from various hard to define sources but believed to be closely connected with the oil-for-food scam. Just exactly what has the Charity Commission been doing all this time?
Mind you, I am not all that impressed by the reporting. As I recall, the Mariam Appeal was set up for supposedly humanitarian purposes,
to provide medicines, medical equipment and medical assistance to the people of Iraq; to highlight the causes and results of the cancer epidemic in Iraq and to arrange for the Peter Bridie medical treatment of a number of Iraqi children outside Iraq.Not to campaign, which is not something charities are supposed to do. It was called the Mariam Appeal after Mariam Hamza, an Iraqi child supposedly flown to Britain to receive treatment for leukemia. Her subsequent fate remains somewhat mysterious.
That Galloway and his then wife (whatever happened to her, by the way?) as well as various associates have had money paid into their accounts from the oil-for-food scam, was established by the Senate Committee under Senator Norm Coleman who may have suffered Mr Galloway's prattish behaviour at the hearing but came up with the goods some time later. Mr Galloway had promised to return after the report and reply to it before the Committee. He never did.
The Volcker Report named Mr Galloway as one of the recipients of illicit funds from Iraq, his wife being another.
There have been a couple of enquiries in the UK into the running of the Mariam Appeal (now defunct) but they came to doubtful conclusions, one of the questions being whether Mr Galloway had used any of the money to fund his travels round the world's unpleasant dictatorships.
Today's report is the third into the Mariam Appeal. The first two found that it should have been properly registered as a charity, but that its funds were largely spent on humanitarian purposes.Not that there was a great deal of evidence, as I recall, as to what those humanitarian purposes were, exactly.
Now we have a third report, which says that the trustees should have been more vigilant about the sources of the money. Presumably, on the basis of past experience, those trustees had assumed that no charity that espouses left-wing politics was likely to be investigated at all seriously. Really, this is very bad luck, indeed.
Of course, if there were any justice those trustees would be asked to pay back the funds that the Appeal had received and spent on goodness knows what and where. The money, naturally, would have to be paid back to the people of Iraq as all the rest of the oil-for-food dosh should have been. Equally certainly, the Charities Commission is going to do absolutely nothing about it. One rather wonders about the purpose of the Charities Commission but that is another and more painful tale.
Mr Galloway is denying everything, maintaining that nobody has ever found anything wrong with the Appeal's activities whereas the accusations of improper sourcing are all completely untrue. And pigs have taken to the skies in large numbers.