Newly found Iraqi files raise heat on British MP
Documents indicate payments of more than $10 million for support of Labour Party official.
BAGHDAD — Editor's note: Documents at the center of the allegations contained in this article have since been shown to be forgeries. The story detailing that Monitor conclusion is available here: http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0620/p01s03-woiq.html. The Monitor therefore acknowledges that the allegations in the documents are false and has apologized to Mr. Galloway for their publication and for the embarrassment and distress caused to him. To underline the sincerity of this apology, the Monitor has paid Mr. Galloway a sum in damages.
A fresh set of documents uncovered in a Baghdad house used by Saddam Hussein's son Qusay to hide top-secret files detail multimillion dollar payments to an outspoken British member of parliament, George Galloway.
Evidence of Mr. Galloway's dealings with the regime were first revealed earlier this week by David Blair, a reporter for the Daily Telegraph in London, who discovered documents in Iraq's Foreign Ministry.
The Labour Party MP, who lambasted his party's prime minister, Tony Blair, in parliamentary debates on the war earlier this year, has denied the allegations. He is now the focus of a preliminary investigation by British law-enforcement officials and is under intense scrutiny in the British press, where the story has been splashed across the front pages.
The most recent - and possibly most revealing - documents were obtained earlier this week by the Monitor. The papers include direct orders from the Hussein regime to issue Mr. Galloway six individual payments, starting in July 1992 and ending in January 2003.
The payments point to a concerted effort by the regime to use its oil wealth to win friends in the Western world who could promote Iraqi interests first by lifting sanctions against Iraq and later in blocking war plans.
The leadership of Hussein's special security section and accountants of the President's secretive Republican Guard signed the papers and authorized payments totaling more than $10 million.
The three most recent payment authorizations, beginning on April 4, 2000, and ending on January 14, 2003 are for $3 million each. All three authorizations include statements that show the Iraqi leadership's strong political motivation in paying Galloway for his vociferous opposition to US and British plans to invade Iraq.
The Jan. 14, 2003, document, written on Republican Guard stationary with its Iraqi eagle and "Trust in Allah," calls for the "Manager of the security department, in the name of President Saddam Hussein, to order a gratuity to be issued to Mr. George Galloway of British nationality in the amount of three million dollars only."
The document states that the money is in return for "his courageous and daring stands against the enemies of Iraq, like Blair, the British Prime Minister, and for his opposition in the House of Commons and Lords against all outrageous lies against our patient people...."
The document is signed left to right by four people, including Gen. Saif Adeen Flaya al-Hassan, Col. Shawki Abed Ahmed, and what the Iraqi general who first discovered the documents says is the signature of Qusay. The same exact signatures are also found on a vast array of documents from the offices of the president's youngest son. The final authorization appears to be that of Qusay, who notes the accounting department should "issue the check and deliver to Mr. George Galloway," adding, "Do this fast and inform me."
An Iraqi general attached to Hussein's Republican Guard discovered the documents in a house in the Baghdad suburbs used by Qusay, who is chief of Iraq's elite Guard units.
The general, whose initials are "S.A.R.," asked not to be named for fear of retribution from Hussein's assassins. He said he raided the suburban home on April 8 with armed fighters in an effort to secure deeds to property that the regime had confiscated from him years ago. He said he found the new Galloway papers amid documents discussing Kuwaiti prisoners and Hussein's chemical warfare experts, and information about the president's most trusted Republican Guard commanders.
The documents appear to be authentic and signed by senior members within Saddam Hussein's most trusted security circle, but their authenticity could not be verified by the Monitor.
The British newspaper The Guardian raised possible questions about the first round of documents, including the possibility that while the documents could be real, they might include false allegations from which Iraqi agents could profit internally.
Galloway - a colorful Scot who is sharp of suit and even sharper of tongue - made regular visits to Iraq, and was dubbed by conservatives in Britain as an "apologist for Saddam Hussein." He once told the dictator, "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability."
In Parliament, Galloway, an MP since 1987 and a controversial figure, has championed the plight of Iraq, and blasted Blair for going to war in league with President Bush in his "crusade" against the Muslim world. He labeled Blair and Bush "wolves" for attacking Iraq, sparking a firm rebuttal from Blair, who called the remarks "disgraceful."
Galloway has vehemently denied he accepted any cash payments from the regime, initially, suggesting the documents may have been forged. The outspoken Labour Party member called earlier Daily Telegraph stories about his dealings a "smear campaign" against war opponents, and his lawyers have initiated legal proceedings against the newspaper.
Repeated efforts to contact Galloway, who is currently traveling in Portugal, were unsuccessful. No one answered at his House of Commons office, and his mobile phone was switched off.
David Blair, the British reporter who first broke the story, told the BBC: "I think it would require an enormous amount of imagination to believe that someone went to the trouble of composing a forged document in Arabic and then planting it in a file of patently authentic documents and burying it in a darkened room on the off-chance that a British journalist might happen upon it and might bother to translate it. That strikes me as so wildly improbable as to be virtually inconceivable."
According to the documents Blair found in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, Galloway received money from Hussein's regime, taking a slice of oil earnings worth at least $600,000 a year. A top-secret memo sent by Hussein's spy chief requested that Galloway get an even-greater cut of Iraq's exports under the UN-sponsored oil for food program.
The document said that Galloway was profiting from food contracts, and sought "exceptional" business deals.
The most recent documents obtained by the Monitor suggest that payoffs may well have been made by checks in lump sums. The Iraqi general, who is familiar with financial dealings of Hussein's inner circle, said that checks of several million dollars could have easily been cashed in a bank on the ground floor of one of the President's most important palaces in Baghdad.
In a more recent Telegraph report based on a memorandum from May 2, 2000, Hussein is said to have rejected a request from Galloway for more money, saying his "exceptional" demands were not affordable.
The letter, found in the foreign ministry files, refers to the date and reference number of the intelligence chief's memo, which asked for Hussein's decision on Galloway's alleged requests.
That memo would have come nearly a month after one of the six letters - obtained by the Monitor - from Qusay's cabinet detailing a payment on April 4, 2000. That payment also references Galloway's "courageous and daring stands towards the oppressive blockade and in support of our courageous and patient people who violently oppose all enemies of Iraq and its leaders..."
Another payment authorization on July 27, 1999, states the money is being given upon "agreement of Sayid Qusay Saddam Hussein (the president's son) who has supervision over the Republican Guard." It calls the $1 million payment a reward for Galloway's support in trying to repeal the "unjust blockade on our beloved country and for his firm stand against the prime minister of Britain, the criminal Blair."
The two earliest payments, in July of 1992 and October of 1993, are noted down on green stationary as having already been delivered. For example, the October payment states, "kindly be informed of the issuing of a gratuity by the esteemed leader President Saddam Hussein (may Allah protect and guide him) to Mr. George Galloway in the amount of $600,000." It says the money was handed over to him by the representative of the directorate of the Special Security Organization, Colonel Shawki. Thursday, the US Marines had surrounded the house of Colonel Shawki. His neighbors said he might have already fled to Syria.
The general who gave access to the documents - General "S" - was until a decade ago a general in the regular Iraqi army but was attached to the Republican Guard. He was subsequently jailed on three occasions. He claims the government punished him because he is a Shiite, by assassinating his wife, three daughters, and one brother.
General "S" was determined to make up for his losses. What he really wanted back, however, was the deeds to the three homes taken from him. He planted his own driver as a spy in the guards of Qusay and followed the presidential paper trail when it moved to the suburbs in March.
On April 8, when US forces prepared to storm the capital, he rounded up six men who had served in prison with him and set out for the house.
He took possession of items including computer printouts that give the names, biographies, and residences of Hussein's most trusted Republican Guard officers. Also in the files is information on chemists who worked in the Iraqi biological-weapons program.
He also, unexpectedly, found documents discussing Kuwaiti prisoners still in Iraq and the ones that noted specific payments of money to Galloway. There was also a document detailing the biographies of Qusay's most trusted assassins.
One of The Monitor's interpreters was a fellow inmate of the general in Hussein's political prison. When the interpreter visited him several days ago, the general mentioned the documents he held.
The general had been most interested in discussing the Kuwaiti file. When the Monitor's reporter and the interpreter arrived to speak with him, he mentioned the Galloway material in passing.
• Mark Rice-Oxley contributed to this report from London.