Attorney General John Ashcroft says the case against an Iraqi-born US citizen sends a clear message to both Americans and Iraqis -- "corruption will not be tolerated. It will be prosecuted."
The businessman pleaded guilty to charges he received payments from Iraq to illegally act as its agent in the US, including getting (m) millions of dollars worth of oil from the UN's oil-for-food program. He faces up to 28 years in prison.
Ashcroft says the man is cooperating with the "active and ongoing probe of fraud and abuse" in the UN program.
These are the first charges to arise from multiple investigations of the program, which the UN operated from 1996 to 2003 while Iraq was subjected to international sanctions imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The program allowed Saddam Hussein to export oil under UN oversight and use the proceeds to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian items.