The Oil—for—Food scandal has caught two French (so far) taking bribes, and the French government apparently has not lost all capacity for embarrassment. The Times of London reports:
TWO former French ambassadors have admitted earning hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of oil that Iraq had assigned to them under the United Nations Oil—for—Food programme.
The disclosure tarnished France's moral stand against the invasion of Iraq, and its Foreign Ministry scrambled to distance itself from the alleged illicit activities of Serge Boidevaix, a former director of the ministry, and of Jean—Bernard M�rim�e, a former French Ambassador to the UN. Both are facing corruption charges.
Jean—Baptiste Mattei, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said: 'There is no link . . . with the decision of France not to participate in the Iraq war. This stemmed from our concept of international law.'
Word that the two men had acknowledged payoffs from Baghdad has embarrassed the ministry, which fears that the actions of two retired diplomats will be used to discredit President Chirac's opposition towards the invasion of Iraq.
Prosecution proceedings have been opened against both men on charges of influence peddling and corruptly acting for a foreign power. Le Monde reported that M M�rim�e, 68, who served as UN Ambassador in the early 1990s, told Philippe Courroye, the investigating judge, that he had made $150,000 (�85,800) from two million barrels of oil that had been assigned to him in 2001.
Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, had given him the oil vouchers as thanks for his lobbying efforts on behalf of Iraq, Le Monde said. He was serving at the time as a special adviser to Kofi Annan, the UN SecretaryGeneral. M Boidevaix, 77, told investigators that he had received 29 million barrels between 1998 and 2003 in reward for lobbying on Iraq's behalf against the international oil embargo, Le Monde said. According to the investigators, M Boidevaix had made $250,000 from selling on the vouchers.
Ed Lasky 10 14 05