U.S. oil executive receives jail sentence for corrupt payments in UN Oil-for-Food case

Texas oil trader Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. was sentenced to more than a year in prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge and admitting he approved the payment of a $ 200,000 surcharge to the Iraqi government in violation of the United Nations’ oil-for-food program. Mr. Wyatt also forfeited $ 11 million.

“My opinions in many ways probably caused me to skirt too close to the law,” said Mr. Wyatt, who has been outspoken about both Bush administrations and about U.S. policy in Iraq. “For that, I was wrong, and for that, I am truly sorry.”

In a related case, Chevron Corp. agreed to pay $ 30 million to settle fraud charges related to the Iraqi oil-for-food program and will cooperate with the federal government in its investigation.

The agreement allows the oil company to avoid criminal charges for kickbacks that were paid to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s regime on oil purchased from Iraq. The purchases were part of an oil-for-food program that had been administered by the United Nations. The company said one of its oil traders either knew, or should have known, about the kickbacks saying the trader “is no longer affiliated with Chevron.” The company said that in 2000, when rumors surfaced that illegal-surcharge payments were being made by third-parties, it immediately ceased its purchases in the program.

The federal probe of corrupt payments in the UN Oil-for-Food Program has produced cases against 12 individuals and seven entities, including Chevron. Six of the individuals and two of the entities pleaded guilty, one individual was found guilty at trial, and two entities reached agreements with the U.S. attorney’s office.

A UN-commissioned inquiry found that 2,200 companies in 66 countries paid $ 1.8bn in bribes to Iraqi officials to win oil contracts.

Read more …

Tycoon Sent to Jail in Oil-for-Food Case,” Wall Street Journal, 20 Nov 07.

Cheveron Settles Iraq Oil-for-Food Kickback Case,” Wall Street Journal, 15 Nov 07.

US oilman jailed over UN scandal,” BBC, 27 Nov 07.

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