Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams
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Estimates of Saddam's wealth range from $2 billion to $40 billion. But experts say it has been so effectively hidden -- in countries from Latin America to Asia -- that the real amount may never be known.
"There is a network of money that has been sent out of the country and it has been given to people to invest or to keep," said Charles Forrest of the U.S.-funded International Campaign to Indict Iraqi War Criminals, or Indict.
"The world must find, freeze and return Iraqi money for the Iraqi people and their future," U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said March 21.
Swiss National Bank estimates Iraqi assets in the country at $305 million at the end of 2001. But officials conceded the true figure, which includes payments from Iraq's oil business, may be higher.
France has frozen some $90 million in Iraqi investments from before the 1991 Gulf War. Britain still holds $605 million in Iraqi assets -- most of it linked to Saddam -- that it froze after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.
Saddam's half brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, was allegedly the chief organizer of a clandestine group of companies and funds handling the Iraqi dictator's wealth.
Indict says Al-Tikriti, chief of Saddam's secret police in the 1980s, used his subsequent nine-year tenure as Iraq's ambassador to U.N. offices in Geneva to set up the network.
Forrest said Kroll found that, despite U.N. restrictions during much of the 1990s, Saddam and his family raked in oil smuggling profits.
"They demanded kickbacks, they bought brokers, they created false front companies and they banked the money abroad in cash, or in accounts for product credit," said David D. Aufhauser, general counsel of the U.S. Treasury Department.
Saddam's regime also skimmed off the U.N.-oil-for-food program.
In one scheme, Iraq sold its oil at below-market rates, with the proceeds going into a U.N. account to buy food and medicine for the Iraqi people. Iraq then received a 30-cent per barrel kickback, according to a report by the Coalition for International Justice, based in Washington, D.C., and the Hague, Netherlands.
The U.S. General Accounting Office estimated Iraq earned $6.6 billion in oil smuggling and surcharges from 1997 to 2001. The Coalition for International Justice put the figure at $10 billion.
U.S. officials said Saddam still had $30 billion in secret funds at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Estimates of his wealth have since declined.
So remind me again why America is to blame for the burden that the UN embargo placed on the Iraqi people and what exactly would lifting the embargo have done for those people? It would have put more money in Saddam's pocket and none would have reached the people of Iraq.
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