AP via Houston Chronicle:
Saddam Hussein diverted money from the U.N. oil-for-food program to pay millions of dollars to families of Palestinian suicide bombers who carried out attacks on Israel, say congressional investigators who uncovered evidence of the money trail.
The former Iraqi president tapped secret bank accounts in Jordan — where he collected bribes from foreign companies and individuals doing illicit business under the humanitarian program — to reward the families up to $25,000 each, investigators told the Associated Press.
Documents prepared for today's hearing by the House International Relations Committee outline the new findings about how Saddam funneled money to the Palestinian families.
Investigators examining the oil-for-food program felt it was "important for us to determine whether the profits from his corruption were put toward terrorist purposes," committee chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., said of Saddam's well-known financial support of suicide bombers.
Today's hearing, however, will focus on a French bank that handled most of the money for the program. An audit by a U.S. regulatory agency of a small sample of transactions out of the $60 billion U.N. escrow account managed by BNP-Paribas has raised serious questions concerning the bank's compliance with U.S. money-laundering laws, the investigators said.
Employees of the Iraqi Central Bank and the Rafidain Bank said the former Iraqi ambassador to Jordan, Sabah Yassen, personally withdrew money from the accounts to make payments ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, Hyde said.