NEW YORK – The new charges in the Oil-for-Food (search) scandal have prompted two questions: Was the entire program created as a result of huge bribes going to U.N. officials? And, who are the unnamed high-ranking U.N. officials who may have taken those bribes?
Federal prosecutors on Thursday unsealed indictments against three people associated with Houston-based Bayoil (search) for colluding with officials from Saddam Hussein's former regime to divert Oil-for-Food funds from humanitarian efforts to their own pockets.
Prosecutors also unveiled a complaint calling for an arrest warrant for Tongsun Park (search), a South Korean man who they say acted as an intermediary between the Iraqi government and the United Nations when the negotiations were going on to set up the Oil-for-Food program in 1992.
Park first came to the United States' attention because of his involvement in the "Koreagate" scandal of the 1970s, where it was discovered that the South Korean intelligence agency was caught secretly trying to manipulate U.S. policy and politics by spreading money around Washington. Park, specifically, was accused of trying to buy influence in Congress in that scandal.
Now, the Justice Department says Park played a major role in bringing U.N. and Iraqi officials together to create Oil-for-Food and that he acted as banker for Iraqi bribe money. Park was last known to be in the United States in December but his current whereabouts were not disclosed Thursday.
In June 1993, Park, along with Samir Vincent (search), the Iraqi-American now co-operating with authorities, allegedly arranged a meeting in Geneva involving two Iraqi officials and a man identified in the federal complaint as "U.N. Official No. 1" to discuss the proposed oil sale program.
That meeting happened in the same month that then-U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali (search) was in Geneva, meeting Saddam's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz (search), to discuss Iraqi oil sales. The timing of those meetings is something investigators are looking at very closely.
Park was accused of telling a cooperating government witness in 1995 that he needed $10 million from Iraq to "take care" of his expenses and his people, which the witness believed meant "U.N. Official 1."
In 1996, another high-ranking U.N. official attended a restaurant meeting with Park, an Iraqi official and the government witness. After "U.N. Official 2" left, Park claimed that he had used a $5 million guarantee from the Iraqi government to fund business dealings with the "U.N. Official 2," court papers said.
Park told the government witness in 1997 or 1998 that he had invested about $1 million that he had gotten from Iraq in a Canadian company established by the son of "U.N. Official 2," though the company failed and the money was lost.
The agent also said the cooperating witness wrote a letter to Iraqi government officials in July 1997 to say that he and Park were splitting funds the Iraqi government was forwarding, but that both groups were supposed to "take care" of "U.N. Official No. 1."
Also noted in the complaint against Park is the extraordinary amounts of money paid by Iraq to its alleged agents for bribery and other purposes.
"The Government of Iraq agreed to pay $5 million to the bank account designated by Park upon an agreement between Baghdad and the United Nations regarding Resolution 986, the resolution that set up Oil-for-Food," reads the complaint.
"Under the second agreement drafted by CW-1, Samir Vincent, at the direction of Iraqi officials, the Government of Iraq agreed to pay $10 million into a bank account in the Channel Islands."
When the full amounts weren't paid, according to the complaint, Park complained to the Iraqi officials that, "he [Park] had used the $5 million guarantee from the Government of Iraq to fund business dealings with U.N. official No. 2."
On Jan. 18, Vincent, 64, admitted to being an illegal agent of Saddam's government.
When announcing the indictments and complaint during a press conference Thursday, U.S. Attorney David N. Kelley was peppered with questions regarding which U.N. officials interacted with Park while he tried to illegally sell Iraqi oil. Kelley dodged many questions, saying that he would not name targets of the investigation and that issues of diplomatic immunity will be addressed "as we go forward."
Kelley said Thursday's charges were "two more pieces in the Oil-for-Food puzzle," which is still being unraveled. "We're going to wring the towel dry," he said.
Asked about the allegations Thursday, U.N. associate spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations had not been contacted by the U.S. attorneys' office.
"We've always maintained that anyone who's found to have committed any criminal wrongdoing in relation to the program should be prosecuted. So in that sense, what you're seeing today is progress," he said.
The Oil-for-Food program, which ran from 1996 to 2003, was created to help relieve the effects on Iraqi civilians of U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It let the Iraqi government sell limited — and eventually unlimited — amounts of oil primarily to buy humanitarian goods.
But Saddam chose the buyers of Iraqi oil and the sellers of humanitarian products. In an effort to halt the sanctions, the former Iraqi president allegedly gave former government officials, activists, journalists and U.N. officials vouchers for oil to be resold at a profit.
Paul Volcker (search), the man appointed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to lead the independent investigation into Oil-for-Food, is continuing his own probe into the scandal. His committee is expected to release its third and final report in midsummer. Volcker and panel leaders say their report will likely lead to dozens of criminal prosecutions by legal authorities in various countries for bribery, sanctions busting, money laundering and fraud.
FOX News' Jonathan Hunt, Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.