MOSCOW – A former Kremlin (search) chief of staff whose name has been linked to alleged Russian abuse of the U.N. oil-for-food program denied any connection to the program, saying his signature had apparently been forged on faxes and letters cited as evidence against him.
Alexander Voloshin said the mention of his name in a report by investigators on the corruption-plagued humanitarian program took him by surprise.
"It's clear that some impostors used my name" he told The Associated Press on Friday. He also said, "I've never even seen a single living Iraqi."
The report by the Independent Inquiry Committee, led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker (search), accused more than 2,200 companies and prominent politicians of colluding with Saddam Hussein's (search) regime to bilk the program — meant to ease the impact of U.N sanctions on Iraqis by allowing oil sales — of $1.8 billion in kickbacks and illicit fees.
It said Russian companies received almost one-third of oil sales under the program, worth about $19 billion. It also alleged that between March 2001 and December 2002, Russian companies made $52 million in illicit payments to Saddam's government.
In May, Volcker's committee had unveiled documents and other evidence detailing alleged violations of the program. They included faxes and letters that appeared to be signed by Voloshin and suggested that 4.3 million barrels of Iraqi oil had been allocated in his name through a Russian company called Impexoil.
But in a voluminous report released last week with a final analysis of the evidence, the committee acknowledged that Voloshin's signature was substantially different from the one on the documents, and concluded that investigators could not find evidence incriminating him.
Other Russian companies and officials have seized upon the suggestion of forgery in Voloshin's case to question the veracity of all the documents cited as evidence.
Voloshin insisted that he bore no grudge against the committee, saying its members were simply doing their job. He said he agreed with Volcker's assertion that law enforcement bodies should follow up on the investigation in their individual countries.
Voloshin has led Unified Energy Systems, the nation's sprawling electricity utility, since 1999.
A one-time business partner of tycoon Boris Berezovsky, a close Kremlin insider during Boris Yeltsin's (search) presidency who is now an opponent of President Vladimir Putin, Voloshin was appointed head of Yeltsin's administration in March 1999.
"I have as many sins as you like, like anyone," Voloshin said. "God knows how many sins I have on my conscience, but this isn't one of them."