Maverick British lawmaker George Galloway solicited and received nearly $600,000 in profits for himself and a charity he ran from secret deals under the Iraq oil-for-food program, Senate investigators charged yesterday.
The new charges, released by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations, come five months after Mr. Galloway, a fierce critic of U.S. policy in Iraq, emphatically denied under oath to the panel that he had taken bribes from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein or participated in any Iraq oil deals.
Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, said the new findings "clearly demonstrate that the testimony given by Mr. Galloway in May was false and misleading."
"We heard a lot of bombast at that hearing, but Mr. Galloway has been anything but straight with Congress or with the American people," Mr. Coleman told reporters.
The outspoken British lawmaker, who was expelled from the ruling Labor Party for his criticisms of Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Iraq war, denied the charges in written responses to the new report.
The new findings were based in part on interviews with three senior officials under Saddam, including Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, as well as on bank account records.
The evidence details what investigators said were direct transfers of oil-for-food profits to bank accounts controlled by Mr. Galloway's wife and by the Mariam Appeal, a charity and political organization founded by Mr. Galloway.
Among the subcommittee's findings:
• Mr. Galloway personally asked for and received from Mr. Aziz and others eight allocations from 1999 to 2003 for the rights to 23 million barrels of oil.
• Amineh Abu-Zayyad, Mr. Galloway's wife, received $150,000 in the summer of 2000 from Fawaz Zureikat, the Jordanian businessman Mr. Galloway acknowledges was his business representative in Baghdad.
• The Mariam Appeal was given at least $446,000 in bank transfers from Mr. Zureikat. These transfers and the one to Mrs. Abu-Zayyad came almost immediately after Mr. Zureikat was paid commissions for deals he brokered under the oil-for-food program.
• Two unidentified oil traders interviewed by the subcommittee said Mr. Zureikat met with them in summer 2000 and that it was made clear to them that the Jordanian was marketing Iraqi oil on Mr. Galloway's behalf. The deal fell through.
• Mr. Zureikat also paid more than $1.6 million in illegal surcharges back to the Saddam government, which demanded bribes from those receiving favorable oil-for-food deals. The Senate investigators said it was highly unlikely Mr. Galloway did not know of the kickbacks, but found no direct proof of his involvement.
A senior subcommittee staffer, briefing reporters on background, said that based on his categorical denials at the May hearing, Mr. Galloway could be charged with perjury, making false statements under oath, and obstruction of congressional proceedings.
The staffer said the panel was sharing its findings with U.S. and British legal authorities. Mr. Coleman said he was discussing with subcommittee Democrats whether to refer Mr. Galloway's case to the Justice Department.
In responses to the new report, Mr. Galloway denied all wrongdoing and specifically denied discussing oil allocations or other oil-for-food deals at a Dec. 26, 1999, meeting with Mr. Zureikat and a member of the Iraqi intelligence service.
Mr. Galloway's May 17 voluntary appearance before the subcommittee provided some riveting political theater, as he attempted to turn the proceedings into an indictment of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
"I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one or sold one -- and neither has anyone on my behalf," Mr. Galloway said at the time.
He argued heatedly with Mr. Coleman and later called him "not much of a lyncher."
Mr. Coleman said yesterday that he had not called the hearing to debate Mr. Galloway and said that, based on the subcommittee's new findings, Mr. Galloway's attacks were "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."