[R-G] Fisk: US military authorized transfer of 19BN IR DN
info at cinox.demon.co.uk
Sat Jan 31 08:19:53 MST 2004
US military authorized transfer of 19bn new Iraqi dinars
01/30/04: (Hi Pakistan) BEIRUT: When a private Lebanese jet recently arrived
at Beirut International Airport packed with 19 billion new Iraqi dinars in
bank-notes - around 12 million US dollars - the authorities immediately
impounded the aircraft and arrested the three men aboard. It was a coup that
seemed likely to earn the favour of the United States which has for years
been threatening Lebanon with financial sanctions if it allows dirty money
to cross its frontiers.
But an astonishing series of revelations - including a faxed message from
the American-appointed Iraqi 'interior ministry' in Baghdad - suggests that
the cash was being sent to Beirut with the full permission of US military
authorities to be transferred by a Lebanese exchange dealer - and then used
to buy armoured vehicles for the American army from a British company. The
three men aboard the cargo jet - which had been stripped of seats to enable
the 21 boxes of new banknotes to be put aboard - have told the Lebanese
authorities that they were cleared to leave Iraq by American officials at
the tightly controlled US base at Baghdad airport.
Nevertheless, the Lebanese state prosecutor Adnan Addoum - Lebanese law is
modelled on French Napoleonic law - refused to believe the story, arrested
the three men and a Beirut exchange dealer who is a relative of former
Lebanese president Amin Gemayel, and demanded an explanation from Iraq's
Charge d'affaires in Beirut, Tahseen Aina.
Mr Aina immediately told Mr Addoum that the Iraqi Central Bank governor was
unaware of any such money transfer. So the four men, Mohamed Issam Bu
Darwish - who stated openly that he was undertaking business operations on
behalf of the US authorities in Iraq - Richard Jreisati, a former Phalangist
militia official in Lebanon, Mazen Bsat, the owner of the plane, and Michel
Mukattaf, the relative of ex-president Gemayel who runs an exchange company
in Lebanon, were all held by the authorities.
Then, the Iraqi "ministry of interior" - effectively run by American
officials working for the US proconsul in Iraq, Paul Bremer - sent a fax to
the Lebanese government stating that the money was being legally transferred
for the "urgent purchase" from a British company of armoured vehicles and
"sophisticated equipment intended to confront the dangerous security
situation in Iraq."
All four men arrested by the Lebanese protested their innocence and were
freed, although the Beirut authorities have ordered the three men on the
plane to surrender their passports until they receive an official letter
from the Iraqi 'ministry of foreign affairs' explaining why so large an
amount of money was being sent to Britain via Lebanon. The British company
was not named.
In Baghdad, several hundred Iraqis protested in front of Bremer's occupation
offices to demand the resignation of the US-appointed 'interior minister',
Nouri Badrane, accusing him of "corruption" for allowing 19 billion Iraqi
dinars to be transferred out of the country.
The money has just replaced the old dinar notes which carried a portrait of
Saddam Hussein's head and have now been declared worthless by the
American-run occupation powers in Iraq. American security guards forced the
Iraqis away from the ministry gates at gunpoint.
Mr Jreisati told the Beirut newspaper 'L'Orient Le Jour' that when he
boarded the aircraft he did not know there was any money aboard. The other
men said they would await the result of Lebanon's official enquiry into the
All declared their innocence of any wrong-doing. In Iraq, however, there
have been widespread claims from western businessmen that the American
authorities and the Iraqi officials who work for them - not the businessmen
with whom they deal - are guilty of fraud. Several have said that Iraqi
sub-contractors are being asked to give cash commissions of between five and
10 per cent of any contract awarded them to one of five Americans working in
In Iran, meanwhile, the authorities have been trying to find out how up to
200 earth-moving vehicles, many of them Caterpillar bulldozers, have turned
up for sale in Abadan and other southern Iranian cities. The vehicles all
appear to have been sent across the border from Iraq and were originally
intended to be part of Iraq's rebuilding programme.
Several non-governmental organizations in Iraq have complained for months
that millions of dollars of aid intended to help rebuild the country have
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