Documents from the oil-for-food corruption investigation will be legally transferred to theUnited Nations on Jan. 1 and made available to governments trying to prosecute alleged wrongdoers, the U.N. said Friday.

The voluminous archive was complied by the Independent Inquiry Committee, led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, whose final report in October 2005 accused more than 2,200 companies from some 40 countries of colluding with Saddam Hussein's regime to bilk the humanitarian program in Iraq of $1.8 billion.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Kofi Annan signed a document Friday on U.N. handling of the committee's files. It creates a U.N. Office of the Independent Inquiry Committee for an initial two-year period to preserve, manage and provide access to the documents.

For more on the oil-for-food program, click here.

The oil-for-food program was aimed at easing Iraqi suffering under U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It allowed Iraq to sell oil provided the bulk of the proceeds were used to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods and to pay war reparations.

Volcker's reports blamed shoddy U.N. management and the world's most powerful nations for allowing corruption in the $64 billion program to go on for years.

The 18-month investigation's millions of pages of documents and interviews became a subject of intense discussions between the U.N. and the Volcker committee because of the sensitive nature of the material.

Volcker's investigators obtained documents from many governments, including the Iraqi government, and signed confidentiality agreements with some witnesses and governments. Investigators say that material subject to those agreements will be returned.

The U.N. rules said confidential documents transferred to the U.N. will remain confidential, along with personnel records of the committee's staff to protect them from "harm or retaliation."

It said other documents may be made available to the 192 U.N. member states who make written requests to the secretary-general, with certain restrictions.

For more on the oil-for-food program, click here.