July 19, 2004 -- WASHINGTON — American officials believe that millions of dollars Saddam Hussein skimmed from the scandal-plagued U.N. oil-for-food program are now being used to help fund the bloody rebel campaign against U.S. forces and the new Iraqi government, The Post has learned.
U.S. intelligence officials and congressional investigators said last night that the "oil-for-insurgency link" has been recently unearthed in the numerous probes now under way into the giant U.N. humanitarian program, in which Saddam is believed to have pocketed $10.1 billion through oil smuggling and kickbacks from suppliers.
Congressional investigators have uncovered hundreds of documents in recent weeks that detail how top officials in Saddam's regime directed companies bidding on contracts for oil or humanitarian goods to pay "after-sales fees" — or kickbacks — of up to 10 percent of each contract.
The documents, which come from Iraqi government files and were handed over to the congressional committees in recent weeks, reveal that the companies were ordered to wire the kickback money into secret bank accounts the regime operated outside Iraq — separate from the legitimate bank accounts being used by the oil-for-food program.
Investigators have traced some of these accounts to banks in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Belarus, where money was either laundered or converted into gold and routed back to Iraq or into other accounts.
The network of bankers, front companies, couriers and money-launderers involved in handling Saddam's oil-for-food kickback schemes still appears to be active, investigators say.
U.S. intelligence officials believe a portion of the funds in these hidden accounts — possibly millions— is now being used to fund the Ba'athist guerrillas responsible for much of the postwar violence against coalition troops, sources said.
"We are still in the early stages of investigating this. But from what we know so far, it's the same financial system, and we believe there is now some connection between what was left over from the illegal profiteering under the oil-for-food program and the funding of insurgency," said a U.S. official familiar with the recent intelligence information.
U.S. officials revealed earlier this month that a network of Saddam's cousins led by Fatiq Suleiman al-Majid, a former henchman in Saddam's murderous Special Security Organization, is involved in funding and arming the militants.
Investigators found a money trail connected to Saddam's clansmen that flowed through banks in Syria. Some of these same banks, congressional investigators said, also handled the kickback depos- its during the oil-for-food program.
Although the Treasury Department has recovered almost $2 billion in hidden assets since the fall of Saddam and has led the way in freezing many of Saddam's foreign bank accounts, the new Iraqi government and congressional investigators believe that hundreds of millions of dollars remain unaccounted for.
[b]"I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy they look at you and say, 'You've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that."
--John Kerry, Monday March 8, 2004[/b]