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Texas oil tycoon sentenced to year in prison for role in oil-for-food scandal

[JURIST] Texas oil tycoon Oscar Wyatt Jr. [NYT profile] was sentenced [press release, PDF] Tuesday to one year in prison and ordered to pay over $11 million dollars in restitution for his role in the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal [JURIST news archive]. Originally accused of paying millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks to members of Saddam Hussein's regime in order to secure oil contracts with Iraq from 2000-2003, Wyatt, the founder of Coastal Corp., pleaded guilty [JURIST report] last month to one count of wire fraud for a payment of $200,000 made in December of 2001. Wyatt had agreed to serve 18 to 24 months in prison after a tape recording of a conversation he had with Hussein was presented at his trial, but US District Judge Denny Chin [official profile] ordered the reduced sentence citing Wyatt's age, military service, and letters of support written to the court. Wyatt has been ordered to begin serving his sentence no later than January 2, 2008.

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. AP has more.

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