Russia and the Middle East
Mon, 21 june 2021Mon
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Spy who siphoned off $½bn from Iraq Oil-for-Food deal

A UN official who held a pivotal post in the Oil-for-Food programme for Iraq has been exposed by a defector as a Russian spy who diverted almost half a billion dollars to top Russian officials in “one of the richest heists in world history”.

Alexandre Kramar, who set the price of Iraqi crude as a UN oil overseer from 1996 to 2003, was an undercover agent for Russia's foreign intelligence agency, the SVR, his former handler says.

The revelation throws new light on the UN Oil-for-Food scandal, which implicated dozens of politicians, diplomats and businessmen around the world, as well as the UN official overseeing the programme, and the son of the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

It provides fresh evidence of Russia's complicity in helping Saddam Hussein to circumvent UN sanctions imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The crumbling of the UN embargo, which was designed to prevent Iraq from rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction, was one of the factors behind the US and British decision to go to war in 2003.