Thursday, September 23, 2004
Investigators into the Oil-for-Food scandal at the
United Nations are exploring a chilling possibility, that
the U.N. humanitarian program may have funded terrorists —
including possibly Al Qaeda.
Juan Zarate, the assistant Treasury secretary in the
newly formed Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence,
said the U.S. government is “very concerned” about what
happened with the Oil-for-Food program that he said
“provided [former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein a vehicle …
to do exactly what he wanted to do.”
“The problem though is complicated,” Zarate said.
“There’s a wide source of potential funding for groups who
want to do us harm.”
One thing Saddam wanted to do was buy weapons to use
against the United States, Zarate said. Selling arms to
Saddam was illegal under U.N. sanctions in place after the
first Gulf War ended in 1991 but Oil-for-Food, which began
in late 1996, gave him the money — and the network to skirt
Case in point: the Al Wasel and Babel General Trading
Company, which was established in 1999 in the United Arab
Emirates to do business under the Oil-for-Food program.
FOX News has obtained a secret U.N. database, which shows
that in 2000 and 2001 alone that company earned more than
$126 million dollars selling Saddam everything from
detergent to teak and white plywood.
Zarate said that Al Wasel and Babel was secretly
controlled, in part, by Hikmat Mizban Ibrahim Al-Azzawi —
Saddam's deputy prime minister and finance minister. Al-Azzawi
— who would become the "eight of diamonds" in the deck of
cards issued by the U.S. military following the downfall of
Saddam’s regime in 2003 — ordered the company to collect
illegal kickbacks from other Oil-for-Food suppliers, Zarate
Some of the money went to buy a missile system —
specifically, a $174 million Russian anti-aircraft missile
system that could shoot down American and British pilots
then patrolling Iraqi "no fly" zones.
“He used Al Wasel and Babel … to try to procure weapons,”
Zarate said, noting that U.S. Customs agents foiled the
But Al Wasel and Babel kept on doing business with
Oil-for-Food until this past April. That's when the U.S.
Treasury Department officially identified it as a front
company for Saddam.
FOX News has received no reply from Al Wasel and Babel or
its parent company, the Lootah Group of companies, about the
accusations it was secretly controlled by Saddam.
Treasury officials have already identified 11 front
companies and nearly 200 Iraqi-controlled firms that they
suspect were part of Saddam's secret and illegal network.
And they say that's only the tip of the iceberg.
“One of our grave concerns is that the money … is still
available to those who want to do us harm in Iraq,” Zarate
Another possibility is that Oil-for-Food money ended up
in the hands of terrorists looking to strike in the United
States — particularly Al Qaeda. It's something to think
about in light of revelations in the report by the
commission appointed to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks on America, which dispels the myth that Usama bin
Laden financed Al Qaeda with a $300 million personal
The report says bin Laden had nowhere near the money to
fund Al Qaeda's $30-million-a-year budget.
So where did Al Qaeda get the money?
The Sept. 11 commission doesn’t know. It can only point
to an undefined "loose affiliation of financial
institutions, businesses and wealthy individuals who
supported extremist Islamic activities."
Could some of these also be the ones helping Saddam scam
The Sept. 11 report reveals that Iraq and Al Qaeda
started communicating after the United States kicked Saddam
out of Kuwait in the first Gulf War in 1991. Bin Laden
"himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer" in
Sudan in 1994 or 1995, the report says.
In 1996, the report says that bin Laden began having
serious money problems that required him to cut back
spending. One key bin Laden aide defected because he was
only getting paid $500 a month.
Bin Laden sent out a number of feelers to the Iraqi
regime in 1997, offering some cooperation. The next year,
two Al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with
Iraqi intelligence, and an Iraqi delegation traveled to
Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden.
It was also in 1998 that Al Qaeda bombed two American
embassies in Africa — after bin Laden called "for the murder
of any American, anywhere on Earth." Suddenly, according to
the Sept. 11 report, "Bin Laden had become the rich man of
the jihad movement."
One more thing about 1998: that was the year the
Oil-for-Food program really started pumping billions into
Saddam's secret accounts, according to U.N. figures.
Claudia Rosett, a journalist in residence for the
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a FOX News
contributor working on Oil-for-Food stories, said the Sept.
11 commission never looked at Oil-for-Food records.
“Someone probably needs to take up the records on the
Oil-for-Food end and trace it further forward,” Rosett said.
One place investigators might want to explore is a
sprawling, family owned conglomerate based in Yemen called
Hayel Saeed Anam. According to a FOX News computer analysis
of the Oil-for-Food database, it did more than $286 million
worth of business with Saddam between January 1997 and
February 2001 alone.
One of the directors of Hayel Saeed Anam is Abdul Rahman
FOX News has found with the help of a specialized
international private investigation firm and Arabic
handwriting experts that Saeed is a founder of a company
called MIGA — Malaysian Swiss Gulf and African Chamber
— registered in Lugano, Italy.
The Treasury Department’s Zarate knows MIGA well. He
described it as “another very good example of a front
company used as a shell to hide and move money." More than
that, MIGA was designated in 2002 by the United States and
the United Nations as "belonging to or associated with" Al
For more about MIGA, click
FOX News attempted to contact the founder and chairman of
the Hayel Saeed Anam group about MIGA, Oil-for-Food and Al
Qaeda. Plus, FOX News sought to contact Abdul Rahman Hayel
Saeed. But FOX News received no reply.
Zarate would not comment on FOX News’ findings because he
said his responsibility was to protect potentially sensitive
But Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican who
is heading up an Oil-for-Food investigation in the House,
said he is certain terrorists somewhere benefited from the
“Did this money go to terrorists? I don't think it went
to the American Beauty Pageant,” Shays said. “Did it go to
terrorists? I think you can be absolutely certain it went to