Kuwait OKs Probe of Halliburton Supplier

Parliament decided Monday to investigate charges that a Kuwaiti supplier to a subsidiary of Halliburton (search) charged too much for fuel deliveries to Iraq after the U.S.-led war toppled Saddam Hussein.

The unanimous vote came shortly after Kuwait's energy minister, Sheik Ahmed Fahd Al Ahmed Al Sabah, told parliament he would support such a probe.

"I approve of the investigative panel if it will be a means to uncover the truth for the Kuwaiti people and the Kuwaiti parliament," Sheik Ahmed told parliament. He earlier also had ordered the nation's top prosecutor to investigate the matter.

However, Sheik Ahmed added that contracts involving state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corp. (search) and the Kuwaiti supplier, Altanmia Marketing Co. (search), were proper. The U.S. Army had asked for Altanmia specifically, he said.

If the parliamentary panel or the prosecutor find any wrongdoing, Sheik Ahmed said the law will be applied "even to me." As energy minister, Sheik Ahmed has ultimate responsibility for state-owned KPC. He has not, however, been implicated in any way with the profiteering allegations.

Legislators chose five members for the investigative panel, which will meeting Wednesday.

Auditors of the U.S. Department of Defense have found that Kellogg Brown & Root (search), a subsidiary of Halliburton, may have overcharged $61 million for deliveries of gasoline from Kuwait to Iraq from May through September. Their investigation is in progress.

Altanmia was found by the auditors to have charged more than twice what suppliers in Turkey did.

Altanmia has not commented on the accusation. But Halliburton — Vice President Dick Cheney's former company — and the Army Corp of Engineers, which oversaw the fuel contract, both said the higher price was justified by dangers faced by fuel convoys and the need to head off Iraqi anger over gasoline shortages. Cheney was Halliburton's chairman from 1995-2000.

In their request for a probe, the legislators said Altanmia made $759,567 a day in profits from providing Kellogg Brown & Root with 1,500 tons of fuel a day. Kuwait Petroleum Corp., the seller, made $386,910 a day from the contract, the legislators claimed.

The lawmakers described the figures as "scary, if true," and said they worked them out from reports published in the United States.

Kuwait, a major U.S. ally in the Gulf, was the main staging ground for the war that ousted Saddam.