Video: Oil-for-food indictments

updated 4/14/2005 9:12:28 PM ET 2005-04-15T01:12:28

A Texas oil trader, along with a Bulgarian and a British citizen, were indicted in a scheme to pay millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime as part of the United Nations’ scandal-ridden oil-for-food program, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

David Chalmers, the oil trader, and Ludmil Dionissiev, a Bulgarian citizen and permanent U.S. resident, were arrested Thursday morning at their homes in Houston. U.S. Attorney David  Kelley said he will seek the extradition from England of a third defendant, John Irving.

In an indictment unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court, the defendants were accused of participating in a scheme to pay millions of dollars in secret kickbacks so that oil companies owned by Chalmers could continue to sell Iraqi oil under the oil-for-food program.

The kickbacks involved funds otherwise intended for humanitarian relief, Kelley said in a statement.

South Korean charged separately
A criminal complaint also unsealed Thursday charged Tongsun Park, a South Korean citizen, with conspiracy to act in the United States as an unregistered government agent for the Iraqi government’s effort to create the oil-for-food program.

If convicted of the charges, Chalmers, Irving and Dionissiev each could face a maximum of 62 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million. The defendants could also be forced to make restitution.

According to the indictment, the government seeks the forfeiture of at least $100 million in assets from the defendants.

Lawyers for the defendants could not immediately be identified to obtain comment.

Earlier guilty plea
On Jan. 18, an Iraqi-born American businessman accused of skimming money from the program pleaded guilty in New York to being an illegal agent of Saddam’s government. Samir A. Vincent, 64, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Annandale, Va., was the first person to be charged in the Justice Department’s investigation.

The U.N. program, which was endorsed by the United States and begun in 1996, permitted Iraq to sell oil despite a stiff U.N. economic embargo against Saddam’s regime, provided the proceeds were used to buy food and medicine for Iraqi people suffering under the sanctions.

Among those who have come under fire in recent months over the handling of the program is U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Investigators last month criticized Annan for not pressing to learn details of his son Kojo’s employment by a Swiss company that won a contract under the oil-for-food program.

Findings of an independent investigation into the program — expected in midsummer — will likely lead to dozens of criminal prosecutions by legal authorities in various countries for bribery, sanctions busting, money laundering and fraud, officials told The Associated Press last month.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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