[Guest post by DRJ]
[The title of this post was changed by popular demand.]
The Oscar Wyatt trial in New York has received limited media attention, perhaps in part because over the years Wyatt has given more money to Democrats than Republicans and is known for his criticism of both Presidents Bush.
Oscar S. Wyatt, Jr., is a larger-than-life figure: Newsweek called him an “oil mogul” and Texas Monthly once called him “the most hated oilman in Texas.” His wife Lynn Sakowitz Wyatt is among the world’s most famous socialites. Together they travel to the most elite European locations and entertain royalty and wealthy alike.
Oscar Wyatt’s relationship with Saddam Hussein and Iraq extended from the 1980’s through the last months of the UN Oil-for-Food program in 2003. Wyatt purchased oil from Iraq through his business, Coastal Corporation, and individually after the sale of Coastal to El Paso Corporation in 2001. Their relationship was so close that Saddam Hussein considered Oscar Wyatt his friend.
In October 2005, Wyatt was indicted in New York federal court on charges that he paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime to sell Iraqi oil under the United Nations Oil-for-Food program:
“The founder of Houston’s Coastal Corp. — now owned by El Paso Corp. — Oscar Wyatt is accused of acceding to the Iraqi regime’s demands that buyers of its crude pay illegal surcharges of 10-50 cents per barrel. Payment of any surcharges was a violation of both the U.N. rules governing the oil-for-food program and U.S. law.
Wyatt also is accused of conspiring to persuade U.N. officials to set the official selling price for Iraqi oil at an artificially low level, allegedly so he could pay the surcharges and still make a profit. He also is charged with supplying equipment to Saddam’s government.”
The evidence against Wyatt apparently includes reports of transactions between Hussein and Coastal Corporation (and later between Hussein and Wyatt, individually) from the UN Oil-for-Food program, as well as testimony from:
“…former El Paso executives, former Iraqi oil company officials and U.N. officials. El Paso purchased Coastal in early 2001. As the successor company, El Paso inherited a contract that had been awarded to Coastal, prosecutors said in a filing. The government contends Wyatt tried to get El Paso to reimburse him for what prosecutors described as an illegal $200,000 payment he allegedly made to get the Iraqis to follow through on that contract.
Earlier this year, El Paso, without admitting or denying guilt, agreed to pay more than $7.7 million to settle civil claims that it helped the former Iraqi regime receive kickbacks. El Paso officials declined again Wednesday to comment on the Wyatt trial.
Samir Vincent, a former oil consultant turned government witness, is expected to testify that he traveled to Iraq with Wyatt when the country was subject to international economic sanctions. The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.
Last month, Wyatt co-defendant David Chalmers, owner of Houston-based BayOil, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, while Chalmers’ business associate Ludmil Dionissiev pleaded guilty to a related smuggling charge.“
This New York Times’ article has more.
Tigerhawk makes the point that Oscar Wyatt, who some regard as the classic example of a Texas oilman, proves that oilmen didn’t need a war to get Iraqi oil:
“In Oscar Wyatt’s view, “no war for oil” means “fight no war so that we can get the oil.” He understood that there was a much more direct path to control over Iraqi oil, and one that would have appeased those Democrats who opposed the war and whose hearts bled for the Iraqis suffering “because” of American sanctions.
No wonder this case is generating so little interest in the press, which is curiously uninterested in Wyatt’s claim that he persuaded a U.S. Senator to speak out against the war. Only Reuters drew a line between Wyatt’s bragging and a particular U.S. Senator — Ted Kennedy — and that was weeks ago. Stories published in the New York Times and elsewhere did not mention Kennedy by name, probably because editors figured he would have spoken against the war anyway. And he would have. But the Wyatt claim is evidence that Ted Kennedy damn well knows that oil interests would have much preferred cutting a deal with Saddam than invading his country.“