A British Labour Member of Parliament has, it was claimed by the London-based Daily Telegraph on Wednesday April 22, been in the pay of Saddam Hussain for more than 10 years.
George Galloway, often referred to in the conservative press as the Member for Baghdad Central, has been a staunch apologist for Saddam Hussein since the first Gulf War. Since then he has been prominent in appeasement groups whose funding, like that of Mr Galloway himself, is murky.
His trips over to Baghdad for friendly chats with the dictator over the past 10 years are well known in Britain. And as the friendship blossomed, so, mysteriously, did Galloway’s wardrobe and lifestyle, right down to that much-envied winter tan that most people in his Scottish constituency so sadly lack. In fact, such a Beau Brummell did this former laborer, jute mill worker and later MP for a Glasgow constituency become that he earned the nickname Gorgeous George.
The British press has not been blind to George’s bizarre friendship with the Butcher of Baghdad and his affinity with organised anti-war groups, but cynical observers thought his sudden wealth came from the “charity” he started - the Mariam Appeal. This was to fund an Iraqi child to fly to Britain for leukaemia treatment. (He claimed uranium-tipped weapons used by the allies in the 1991 Gulf war had caused it.) It is not registered and therefore did not have to open its books to public scrutiny. The charity, which later morphed into a political organisation for campaigning against Iraqi sanctions, has paid for numerous trips by Mr Galloway to a variety of countries including Jordan, Romania, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and the US. And it allegedly provided cover for many a trip to Baghdad. Surely it would not have been beyond the manipulative means of a sleaze like Galloway to be fiddling the books and helping himself to a slice? Or so seasoned Galloway watchers assumed.
Well, he may have been fiddling the Mariam Appeal’s books. Who knows? But that would have been small beer if what is now emerging is accurate. On April 22, the London-based Daily Telegraph got what is probably the British scoop of the decade. It claims to have evidence that British Member of Parliament George Galloway was in the pay of Saddam Hussein to the tune of around $550,000 per annum, plus bennies.
Not only was a member of the governing Labour Party on the payroll of the enemy of Britain during wartime, but according to The Telegraph, the money was got out of Iraq and into George’s bank account via the oil for food program. We are talking here of the revenues from the UN administered program from oil that Iraq was allowed to sell in order to have the means to buy food and medicines for the Iraqis.
George Galloway got himself onto Saddam’s payroll through a Jordanian intermediary who has according to an Iraqi intelligence profile, a family history of loyalty to Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. They met through Galloway’s second wife who was a Palestinian who went to university in Jordan at the same time as Zureikat and is now a biologist working at Glasgow University. Fawaz Abdullah Zureikat proved to be just the ticket to get a deal going with Saddam’s regime.
Significantly, Zureikat had previously worked in the Iraqi oil ministry and he has a history of having been an oil trader. When he acted as Galloway's representative in 2000, Mr Zureikat was running a semi-conductors company with its head office in Amman, the Jordanian capital. This company is mentioned in the Iraqi intelligence chief's memorandum as a front for Mr Galloway's own business dealings in Iraq.
Zureikat was apparently present at a meeting at which the British Member of Parliament was reported to have spelled out his demands. (Zureikat was arrested in Jordan last month during a Jordanian house cleaning of pro-Saddam activists. It is not known whether he has been released.)
A confidential memorandum sent to Saddam by his spy chief said that Mr Galloway asked an agent of the Mukhabarat secret service for a greater cut of Iraq's exports under the oil for food programme. The same document, seen by The Telegraph, also said that Mr Galloway was profiting from food contracts and sought "exceptional" business deals. Among documents found in the foreign ministry was a memorandum from the chief of the Mukhabarat to Saddam's office on Jan 3, 2000, marked "Confidential and Personal".
It purported to outline talks between Mr Galloway and an Iraqi spy. The spy chief wrote that Mr Galloway told the Mukhabarat agent: "He [Galloway] needs continuous financial support from Iraq. He obtained through Mr Tariq Aziz [deputy prime minister] three million barrels of oil every six months, according to the oil for food programme. His share would be only between 10 and 15 cents per barrel." If the memo was accurate, Mr Galloway's share would have amounted to about $550,000 per year.
The documents say that Mr Galloway entered into partnership with a named Iraqi oil broker to sell the oil on the international market and continues "[Galloway] also obtained a limited number of food contracts with the ministry of trade. The percentage of its profits does not go above one per cent.