Saddam's illegal oil profits higher than estimated, U.S. says
March 18, 2004 

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saddam Hussein's regime made billions of dollars more than originally estimated from the United Nations' Oil for Food program and smuggling, the General Accounting Office said Thursday.

Saddam reaped $10.1 billion in illegal oil revenues from 1997 to 2002, GAO Director of International Affairs and Trade Joseph Christoff told a House Financial Services subcommittee Thursday.  Originally, GAO had estimated the Iraqi regime acquired only $6.6 billion.

Christoff said $5.7 billion was from oil smuggled out of Iraq and $4.4 billion came from illicit surcharges on oil sales and after sale charges on suppliers involved in the Oil for Food program.

The program, which was set up after the 1991 Gulf War, allowed Iraq to sell specific quotas of oil, with the proceeds earmarked to pay for food and medicine for the Iraqi people.  Other oil sales were barred under a U.N. embargo.

"The sanctions did not prevent Iraq from acquiring billions in illegal revenues from these proceeds," said Christoff. "Oil was smuggled through Syria, Jordan and the Persian Gulf.  The government levied surcharges of up to 50 cents a barrel against oil purchasers.  It extracted commissions of 5 to 10 percent against commodity suppliers.  Based on this information, we estimate that the former regime acquired 10.1 billion in illegal revenues."

At the same hearing, Treasury Department officials said they were freezing the U.S. assets of 16 family members of Saddam and other top members of his regime.  The list includes Saddam's two wives, Sajida Khayrallah and Samira Shahbandar, and three of his daughters.

"Those names are being notified to the U.N. to make that part of the mandatory freeze list, to allow our counterparts around the world to freeze those assets and repatriate them," Deputy Assistant Secretary Juan Zarate said.

Member nations must freeze accounts and financial assets that might hold Iraqi money as required by a U.N. Security Council resolution.

In addition to the individuals, the Treasury Department is submitting 191 Iraqi entities to the United Nations.

"Everyday the hunt for Iraqi assets unveils more and Hussein's thievery from the Iraqi people," said Zarate.   "Taking international action to identify and freeze funds pilfered by the fallen regime is crucial to the reconstruction efforts in Iraq."

So far, the Treasury Department says the United States has frozen $4.5 billion in Iraqi assets.