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Texas oil tycoon pleads guilty to conspiracy in Iraq oil-for-food scandal

[JURIST] Houston oil tycoon Oscar Wyatt [NYT profile] pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his involvement in the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal [JURIST news archive]. Wyatt pleaded guilty to only one of five charges against him for his alleged payment of millions of dollars in bribes in return for oil contracts in Iraq. Wyatt remains out of prison on bail until his sentencing in November, but may not leave the US.

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York [official website] Michael Garcia charged and arrested Wyatt [JURIST report] and two Swiss bankers in 2005 for their involvement in the scandal. The now-defunct UN Oil-for-Food program [UN materials] allowed the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, under UN sanctions in the wake of the first Gulf War, to sell limited stocks of oil in return for foodstuffs and other humanitarian supplies. Hussein's regime nonetheless bribed foreign officials and commercial interests so it could sell oil on the black market, embezzling over $1 billion in program funds and perhaps as much another $10 billion from other sources. Reuters has more.

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