Topics in East Asia

Monday, January 09, 2006

I expect that humanity support of the United Nations will become better.

I expect that humanity support of the United Nations will become better.


http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000080&sid=aFIpUHsuEbEQ&refer=asia

South Korean Tongsun Park Seized in Oil-For-Food Case (Update2)

Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- South Korean businessman Tongsun Park was arrested today in Houston on charges that he worked as an unregistered agent for Iraq in the United Nations oil-for-food program and received millions of dollars for his efforts.

Park, then in South Korea, was charged in a criminal complaint in April and had not appeared in New York federal court to defend himself. Federal prosecutors in New York unsealed new charges against him today after his arrest.

``Saddam Hussein's government paid off Tongsun Park to corrupt the oil-for-food program from its inception,'' U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said in a statement. ``Park's arrest is an important step in the federal government's efforts to bring to justice those who broke the U.S. law in undermining the humanitarian purpose of that program.''

The U.S. investigation into the oil-for-food program has resulted in criminal charges against 11 people, including Texas oilman Oscar Wyatt and Russian diplomat Vladimir Kuznetsov. Former UN procurement officer Alexander Yakovlev pleaded guilty to fraud in August.

The UN imposed sanctions on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. In 1996, it modified the sanctions and allowed Iraq to sell oil, provided payments went into a UN-monitored account and were used to buy humanitarian goods for Iraqis. Under the program, Hussein chose the companies that could buy Iraqi oil at a discounted price set by the UN.

Iraq's Middleman

The complaint says Park and another person, who isn't identified and is now aiding the prosecution, agreed to work on Iraq's behalf starting in October 1992. Park served as Iraq's intermediary to an unnamed high-ranking UN official, arranging meetings with himself, the UN official, and representatives of Iraq, the complaint says.

Park helped negotiate the terms of the oil-for-food program without registering as an agent of the Iraqi government, the complaint says. The UN Security Council authorized the program in April 1995.

``Park received at least $2 million from the government of Iraq as compensation for his efforts,'' Garcia said. It was understood that ``some of the money Park received from the government of Iraq would be used by Park to `take care''' of the UN official.

Wyatt

Park will appear in Houston federal court on Jan. 9. He faces charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S.

``Park actively lobbied UN officials to establish the program, while extracting millions of dollars from profiteering Iraqi officials for his efforts,'' said Mark Mershon, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York office.

Park's lawyer, Jamie Gardner, didn't immediately return a telephone call.

Park was indicted in the 1970s for bribing U.S. congressmen in what became known as the ``Koreagate'' scandal. The indictment was later dropped.

Wyatt, the founder of Coastal Corp., is accused in the oil- for-food case of paying millions of dollars in bribes to Iraqi officials. He was arrested on Oct. 21. Coastal was acquired by Houston-based El Paso, owner of the largest U.S. network of natural-gas pipelines, in 2001.

To contact the reporter on this story:

David Glovin in New York at dglovin@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: January 6, 2006 18:31 EST

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