Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bigger than Madoff

That's what the Independent says in its headline:

A 'fraud' bigger than Madoff

Senior US soldiers investigated over missing Iraq reconstruction billions

What caught my attention in the headline was the "Senior" US soldier. It has seemed that in the Iraq debacle the only bad apples are of the enlisted variety. The officers are to a man pure as driven snow. But that may be changing (with emphasis on the may).

American federal investigators are now starting an inquiry into the actions of senior US officers involved in the programme to rebuild Iraq, according to The New York Times, which cites interviews with senior government officials and court documents. Court records reveal that, in January, investigators subpoenaed the bank records of Colonel Anthony B Bell, now retired from the US Army, but who was previously responsible for contracting for the reconstruction effort in 2003 and 2004. Two federal officials are cited by the paper as saying that investigators are also looking at the activities of Lieutenant-Colonel Ronald W Hirtle of the US Air Force, who was senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004. It is not clear what specific evidence exists against the two men, who have both said they have nothing to hide.
Some might remember Dale Stoffel. His murder in 2004 received some press but as with most stories of corruption of US officials in Iraq the story disappeared. It seems its back again.
In the expanded inquiry by federal agencies, the evidence of a small-time US businessman called Dale C Stoffel who was murdered after leaving the US base at Taiji north of Baghdad in 2004 is being re-examined. Before he was killed, Mr Stoffel, an arms dealer and contractor, was granted limited immunity from prosecution after he had provided information that a network of bribery – linking companies and US officials awarding contracts – existed within the US-run Green Zone in Baghdad. He said bribes of tens of thousands of dollars were regularly delivered in pizza boxes sent to US contracting officers.

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