LONDON – British law enforcement officials have begun a preliminary investigation into whether a lawmaker who vehemently opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq misused money from an Iraqi aid charity he runs.
In addition, the governing Labor Party is investigating separate allegations that George Galloway also received money from Saddam Hussein's regime through the oil-for-food program, as reported by The Daily Telegraph.
Galloway, an outspoken Labor Party lawmaker, denied the report, calling it part of a "smear campaign" against war opponents and said he had begun legal proceedings against the newspaper.
"I have never solicited nor received money from Iraq for our campaign against war and sanctions," Galloway said in a statement.
Labor Party chairman Ian McCartney said his party would investigate the "extremely serious" allegations.
The newspaper said its correspondent in Baghdad had seen a memo to Saddam from the Iraqi intelligence service saying Galloway had asked for a larger cut of Iraq's exports under the oil-for-food program.
The January 2000 memo said Galloway received 10 cents to 15 cents from each of 3 million barrels of Iraqi oil a year, according to the newspaper. Under U.N. sanctions imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq was allowed to sell some oil to buy humanitarian supplies.
The newspaper reported that the memo said Galloway also had entered into partnership with an Iraqi broker to sell oil on the international market.
The Daily Telegraph said the memo was signed by the Iraqi intelligence chief, although the signature was illegible.
The newspaper said its reporter found the document and other files in Baghdad's looted Foreign Ministry.
In its Wednesday edition, the newspaper reproduced a memo allegedly written in response to the request by a senior aide to Saddam. It said Galloway had asked for "exceptional support which we cannot afford."
Galloway said the documents were forgeries or had been doctored and were part of a "smear campaign against those who stood against the illegal and bloody war on Iraq and against its occupation by foreign forces."
"I have never seen a barrel of oil, never owned one, never bought one, never sold one," Galloway said.
Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore told Channel 4 television news: "We are completely confident. This is very straightforward, enterprising journalism."
Galloway also leads an anti-sanctions charity, the Mariam Appeal, and has traveled to Baghdad several times to deliver aid. The organization was set up in 1998 to raise funds for medical treatment for an Iraqi girl suffering from leukemia.
Galloway said the appeal was funded largely by the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and by Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat.
Zureikat told The Associated Press in Jordan he was a donor, coordinator and supporter of the Mariam Appeal, and the document in The Daily Telegraph report was "fabricated."
Separately, The Times of London reported Wednesday that officials were investigating whether Galloway had misused money from the charity to pay for travel expenses.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Lord Goldsmith confirmed officials were looking at whether Galloway had misused the charity's funds, but said the investigation was at a "very, very early stage."
Galloway has long opposed his government's policy on the Middle East. In an interview with Abu Dhabi TV last month, he called for Arab nations to "stand by the Iraqi people," and for British soldiers to refuse to fight.
The comments provoked condemnation from other Labor politicians and calls for Galloway to be expelled from the party.