Ex-Investigator Claims Oil-for-Food Probe Gave Annan Confidential Information

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The U.N. Oil-for-Food probe violated the confidentiality of a witness by passing sensitive information about him to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) and his lawyer in preparation for a recent report, a former investigator claimed.

The allegations were the latest in a dispute between the former investigator, Robert Parton (search), and the Independent Inquiry Committee headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker (search). Parton quit the committee in April, reportedly because he felt its March 29 interim report was too soft on Annan.

The executive director of the probe, Reid Morden (search), said Monday the interim report did not violate anyone's confidentiality but he refused to comment on the specifics of Parton's claim.

The committee's March 29 report found that Annan had not meddled with the awarding of an Oil-for-Food contract to Cotecna (search), the Swiss company that employed his son, Kojo. It said there wasn't sufficient evidence to suggest that he even knew Cotecna was seeking a contract.

Parton has been embroiled in a confrontation with the committee over files he took with him when he quit. He turned the documents over to a congressional investigation under subpoena, and Volcker's committee accuses him of violating a confidentiality agreement.

In a court filing over the weekend, Parton claimed that the documents he took had no names of Iraqi witnesses and he had gone out of his way to protect witnesses' identities. He accused the IIC itself of betraying the confidence of a witness.

Parton's court filing was made to protest a legal motion by the IIC to see what documents he turned over to the congressional committee.

Earlier Monday, a federal judge ordered Parton to give the Volcker committee access by noon Tuesday to the documents he had turned over. Parton's lawyer Lanny Davis said copies had been given to the IIC by Monday evening.

"We hope this is the beginning of a process of resolving this matter among all the parties and Congress," Davis said.

Parton alleged that the committee's lawyer acknowledged a violation in the case of at least one witness, "but took no action to advise the witness of the breach or otherwise to seek to protect him."

Davis, Parton's lawyer, confirmed that the witness was Pierre Mouselli, a business partner of Kojo Annan's and a Cotecna consultant. Davis said that Volcker's committee told Annan and his lawyer who Mouselli was and were given the substance of his testimony. Parton claimed that was done without his knowledge.

Morden responded that the committee gave Annan and others drafts of the report so they could include formal responses to claims against them.

"We have not given out anybody's records of conversation or transcripts," Morden said. "We have always refused. I think, in fact, the secretary-general's lawyer asked for them and we said, 'No, you can't have those."'

Annan's lawyer did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday afternoon.

Mouselli's lawyer, Adrian Gonzalez-Maltes, claimed lawyers for Kofi and Kojo Annan had contacted him and his client seeking to clarify some of Mouselli's testimony, and the committee later twisted Mouselli's statements to discredit him.

"There was a lot of evidence that Mouselli could have given and they didn't want the evidence and they burned him as a witness," Gonzalez-Maltes said.

Also on Monday, a Senate subcommittee released the latest of several new reports investigating the running of Oil-for-Food, this one looking at how the U.S. oil company Bayoil fostered corruption under the program by buying millions of barrels of oil even after Saddam Hussein had begun to demand kickbacks from buyers.

The report, from Democrats on the subcommittee of the U.S. Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, found that Bayoil imported 200 million barrels over two years starting in September 2000 and sold it to U.S. oil companies.

Though there is no evidence the companies knew about the kickbacks, they played a huge role in lining Saddam's pockets, the report said.

"We've got to look in the mirror at ourselves as well as point fingers at others," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

The report also tracked the billions of dollars Saddam made through direct exports outside Oil-for-Food, sometimes with direct knowledge of the United States and other members of the U.N. Security Council.