Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, July 28, 2005

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For IMMEDIATE Release

Syria and UN Oil-for-Food Scandal
Rohrabacher, Ros-Lehtinen Schedule Wednesday Joint Subcommittee Hearing

BACKGROUND: Following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003, criminal investigators from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) opened an inquiry into Iraqi operations of the scandal-plagued UN Oil-for-Food Program, interviewing numerous government officials, former Iraqi Ministers and other imprisoned officials. Information obtained by investigators for the House International Relations Committee, IRS, and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) unearthed numerous commercial transactions and deposits that implicate the Syrian government in the UN Oil-for-Food scandal.  Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) maintained accounts at the Commercial Bank of Syria (CBS) that received funds from the sale of oil to Syria from Iraq, in defiance of UN sanctions imposed on Iraq following the first Gulf War.  IRS investigators have concluded that more than $3 billion was funneled through these accounts. Funds in these accounts were used to purchase merchandise through Syrian suppliers, transferred in cash to Baghdad using a diplomatic courier, and used to pay the 10 percent kickback demanded by Iraq of all companies involved in the UN program. IRS Investigators have also determined that Syrian Defense Minister Mustapha Tlas received a “tribute payment” in return for permitting trade between the two countries in violation of UN sanctions. Tlas’ son, Firas, and other officials with personal ties to President Bashar Assad also received commissions for acting as intermediaries in military procurement contracts. 

WHAT:                             Joint Subcommittee Oversight Hearing:
                                          Syria and the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program
                               
          Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations,
                                          
U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman
                                          Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia,
                                         
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chair

WHEN:                             10:30 a.m., Wednesday, July 27, 2005

WHERE:                           Room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

WITNESSES:                   Panel I:
                                           Elizabeth L. Dibble
,
                                           Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, U.S. Department of State;
                                           Dwight Sparlin
,
                                           Director of Operations, Policy, and Support, Criminal Investigations Division,
                                           Internal Revenue Service;
                                           Panel II:
                                           Victor Comras, Esq
.

                                          (former member of United Nations al-Qaeda monitoring group)

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