Saturday, July 31, 2004

Weir Group admits illegal kickbacks to Saddam

7/24/2004 9:00:00 AM GMT
Source: Sun City

A British engineering firm admitted yesterday it may have paid millions in illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Weir Group, which has former NATO chief, George Robertson, on its board, is probing £4.2million in irregular payments in Iraq.

After previous denials the oil and water pump maker conceded that extra payments made to an agent to land United Nations contracts could have lined Saddam’s pockets.

A spokesman for the Glasgow-based group — Scotland’s biggest engineer — said: “The investigations have not been able to establish the ultimate recipients of the payments to the agent.”

“Therefore the group cannot rule out the possibility that sums may have been returned to Iraq.” The acutely embarrassing admission sent Weir shares down 5.25p to 276.5.

Weir chairman and BBC governor Sir Robert Smith accepted that earlier denials had been wrong.

Neither he nor Lord Robertson, also deputy chairman of phone operator Cable & Wireless, were board members when Weir made the payments in 2000.

They applied to 15 of 37 deals to service oil and water pumps under the UN programme which allowed Iraq to sell some oil to buy food.

The group's dealings will form part of an independent investigation approved by the UN looking into allegations of bribery and corruption in the administration and management of its £26bn humanitarian Oil for Food programme, which was launched in 1996 to limit the human costs of economic sanctions imposed on the then Iraqi regime.

After the war, it emerged that Saddam’s regime insisted on a mark-up of at least ten per cent on all supplies under the scheme.

Pentagon investigators found that Saddam and his cronies pocketed hundreds of millions of pounds.

They identified Weir as one of hundreds of firms they reckoned paid the illicit kickbacks.



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