NEW YORK – A Texas oilman and two Swiss business executives were charged Friday with crimes relating to the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal, the U.S. Attorney's office said.
Oscar Wyatt, Jr., founder and former chairman of Coastal Corp. (search), was arrested Friday morning by federal prosecutors at his Houston home on charges that he payed millions of dollars in secret kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime through the Oil-for-Food program.
The Oil-for-Food program was designed to allow Saddam to sell oil in exchange for food and medicine for his country while the international sanctions (search) were in effect, but instead Saddam was able to bring in more than $10 billion in oil-smuggling profits, payoffs and other illegal oil sales.
Prosecutors said Catalina del Socorro and Mohammed Saudj, who ran the Swiss consulting firm Sarenco, worked closely with Wyatt and his companies to hide kickbacks. The U.S. government was seeking their extradition from Switzerland.
Wyatt’s companies, Nafta Petroleum and Mednafta, as well as Sarenco, allegedly appeared on what Saddam regime officials dubbed "Saddam’s bribery list."
The list was intended to spread billions of dollars around the globe via illegal oil allocations in an attempt to support the ousted leader’s regime. In return for receiving the kickbacks, Saddam’s regime wanted politicians and businessmen to pressure the U.N. Security Council (search) to drop the sanctions against Iraq.
In April, federal prosecutors charged two other Houston oilmen and a British citizen with taking part in the corruption.
If convicted of conspiracy and other charges, the three people named in this latest federal indictment could get 62 years in prison and a fine of $1 million, or twice the illicit gains they allegedly received.
A call to a lawyer for Wyatt was not immediately returned.
On Thursday, Manhattan's district attorney announced that a Virginia oil-trading company pleaded guilty to grand larceny in an oil-for-food program kickback scheme, and agreed to pay a $250,000 fine.
In January, an Iraqi-born American businessman accused of skimming oil-for-food money admitted to being an illegal agent of Saddam's government.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.