Oil-for-food ‘yodeling’ all the way to the bank

News that a few construction companies were happy to put their snouts in the trough of Saddam Hussein’s regime through the oil-for-food programme, will not come as a huge surprise to many in the industry. Sadly, it’s a bit of a ‘dog bites man’ story.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  November 5, 2005

|~||~||~|News that a few construction companies were happy to put their snouts in the trough of Saddam Hussein’s regime through the oil-for-food programme, will not come as a huge surprise to many in the industry. Sadly, it’s a bit of a ‘dog bites man’ story. Brown envelopes stuffed with cash have long been the lingua franca of consultants and contractors that choose to operate in parts of the world where dubious regimes are in place, and backhanders form part of the regular procurement process. Neither is it a secret that some of the most established and conservative names in the civil engineering business are quite prepared to slip the occasional dictator a charitable donation for a road job here, or a dam contract there. ‘It’s the way things are done old boy.’ They have even developed their own nudge and wink language like the Free Masons. One tap on the side of the nose denotes 10% on the contract sum; yodeling indicates that the money should be paid into a Swiss bank account; while whistling a Bob Marley tune points to one of the offshore Caribbean tax havens. And so on and so forth. Now that the truth is out, the companies named by the Volcker Committee have a duty to their shareholders and to the public at large to come clean about their precise role in this whole sordid affair. Who paid what to whom and when? Otherwise all the weasel words contained in the corporate social responsibility manifestos of these same firms will be nothing more than a joke. What is really staggering about all of this is that the UN somehow missed the fact that 2000 companies paid nearly US $2 billion in illicit payments to Saddam’s regime — everybody seemed to be in on the action, even a Vatican priest who allegedly received a US $140 000 donation from a French oil importer. Bet that bought a few hymn books. Surely somebody should have picked up on this. And why is it that the spy satellites that are so adept at detecting increases in terrorist ‘chatter’ missed all the yodeling that must have been going on in Baghdad? It must have been like the Sound of Music down there. Sean Cronin Editor||**||

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