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January 18, 2005

"Breaking..." As They Say In Overly Excitable Newsrooms

Oil-for-Food figure and Hraka obsession Samir Vincent has decided to cop a plea.

An Iraqi-born American citizen will strike a plea deal with the Justice Department as part of the federal investigation into the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal, officials at Justice told FOX News.

The Justice Department on Tuesday will announce the agreement with Samir Vincent , one of the men suspected of getting kickbacks as part of the multi-billion dollar scandal.

The exact nature of the charges to which Vincent will plead is not yet known. Vincent will agree to help the prosecution as part of the deal, officials said.

I'm guessing that in the overall scheme of things, Samir is regarded as a fairly small fish, albeit one that might prove useful when it comes to angling for bigger game at the UN. Alternatively, it's possible that the plea bargain was arranged so that some of the alleged details of Vincent's involvement with the Bush I Presidency could be kept quiet. It'll be hard to tell until more details of his deal and/or eventual testimony come out. Seems like a decent-sized break in the case, though. A number of UN heads will probably rest even more uneasily tonight.

Update: CNN lists the charges Mr. Vincent is pleading guilty to.

Samir Vincent, an Iraqi-American who headed Phoenix International in northern Virginia, pleaded guilty to tax violations and engaging in activities as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, U.S. government sources said.

"Unregistered agent of a foreign government" is a interesting charge. As Brendan Koerner in Slate details, it's not quite the same thing a being a spy for a foreign government, but it's close.

The Foreign Agent Registration Act stipulates that anyone in the United States who "acts at the order, request, or under the direction or control of a foreign principal" must make his connections known to the Department of Justice.
The law requires that people representing "foreign principals"—primarily governments, but also some opposition parties, state companies (such as tourist boards or airlines), and individuals—register with the DOJ, make public all their related income and expenditures, and keep copious records of all activities. Any statements that the registrant publishes on behalf of her client must include a footnote stating that the author is acting as an agent of a foreign principal.

Assuming Robert Parry's description of Vincent's acts during the first Gulf War are accurate, those charges could have been filed against him at any time since then, suggesting that either the U.S. government didn't care about Samir's activities, had inadvertently overlooked them, or just recently decided to bring the charges. Again, the plea deal suggests that Vincent knows something of value to the rest of the UN investigation.

Another tidbit, from the Times.

According to court papers in Vincent's case, between 1992 and 2003 Vincent worked closely with Saddam's government in an effort to persuade U.S. and U.N. officials to repeal those economic sanctions and on matters related to admission of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq. He was also involved in the drafting of the oil-for-food program, including agreements guaranteeing himself and others ``millions of dollars in compensation.''

The Oil-For-Food program was authorized by the UN in 1995, by which time Samir Vincent had been on Saddam's payroll for at least three years, and he was involved in creating it. No wonder Saddam was so easily able to manipulate it. Corruption on an international scale wasn't an unwonted side effect of the program, it was a feature built-in from the very beginning.

Postscript: Some of our other Samir links.

A good amount of background information on Samir.

His Boston College player profile.

A social diagram of the pols, pundits and other newsworthies associated with Samir. Brent Scrowcroft makes an appearance, as do John Sununu and former CIA head Richard Helms.

Posted by Bigwig at January 18, 2005 11:55 AM | TrackBack
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[[... it's not quite the same thing a being a spy for a foreign government, but it's close.]]

Not that close, necessarily. It also applies to being a lobbyist. This was the law that Billy Carter got popped under for taking money from Libya during the Carter administration, if memory serves. Not even Karl Rove could credibly suggest that Billy was spying.

Posted by: Lex at January 18, 2005 05:04 PM
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