WASHINGTON — Former top officials in Saddam Hussein's government have told congressional investigators they provided millions of dollars worth of oil allocations to Russian leaders in hopes of ending U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
Former Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told investigators that the allocations were "compensation for support," according to a report being released today by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigations subcommittee.
Russia's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report, saying it would be "unethical to make any statements" until a U.N.-appointed commission investigating the oil-for-food program released its third and probably final report this summer.
The Senate investigators said their interviews and documents from the former Iraqi government add to evidence in previous investigations linking Russian officials to abuses in the U.N. program.
Among the Russian officials named are Alexander Voloshin, former chief of staff to President Vladimir V. Putin, and ultranationalist lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
The report said the Russian Presidential Council, led by Voloshin, received allocations worth more than $16 million and Zhirinovsky got vouchers worth $8.7 million. On six occasions, investigators said, he sold allotments to the Texas-based Bayoil USA, whose owner, David B. Chalmers, has been indicted in the oil-for-food scandal.
The Senate plans a hearing Tuesday on Hussein's use of oil vouchers to reward supporters. The vouchers allowed the bearer to buy Iraqi oil at cut-rate prices and could be sold for a profit. Hussein also demanded kickbacks from the oil transactions.