Special Prosecutor Needed to Investigate Cheney Oil Dealings, Possible Plame Connection
by Nick Mottern
This article argues for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the past and current involvement of Vice President Richard Cheney in the global, sometimes illegal, activities of independent oil traders, activities that have been dominated by billionaire Marc Rich and his associates.
Additionally, it raises questions about possible connections between this oil trading and the "outing" of Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA employee.
This article is based on internet research focused on exploring connections between Mr. Cheney and the world of independent oil trading, particularly in relation to his tenure from 1995 to 2000 as chief of Halliburton Company. There is extensive, highly provocative coverage of independent oil trading and Halliburton on the internet that should be receiving systematic examination by major news organizations and the Congress.
An investigation of independent oil trading and Marc Rich, published in July 2005 by Business Week, described Rich, then 70 and reportedly worth at least $8 billion, as the creator a shadowy, global oil trading system in which great profits can be made by buying oil from "some of the most corrupt or politically unstable places on earth...These are the new frontiers where major U.S. oil companies fear to tread because of sanctions, embargoes and anti-bribery and anti-terrorism laws."
And the article notes: "The majors (major oil firms) are the bread and butter" of Rich and his associates. It cites a Senate report saying that half the crude oil shipped out of Iraq through bribery under the Oil for Food Program was sold to major oil companies.
Rich is reported by various articles to have been not only involved in illegal oil trading with Iraq but that, over the years, he has violated sanctions against oil trade with apartheid South Africa, Iran, Cuba and Libya.
Rich fled the United States in 1983 for Switzerland to escape prosecution for racketeering and non-payment of $48 million in corporate taxes and, Business Week reported, "other violations that could have resulted in 300 years of jailtime." His companies pleaded guilty to some charges, the article said, paying about $200 million in fines, but Rich remained "the most wanted white-collar criminal in U.S. history until his controversial pardon on President Bill Clinton's last day of office in 2001."
When Congress held hearings on the Rich pardon in 2001, one of those testifying on Rich's behalf was I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Libby told Congress that Rich's tax problems resulted from faulty legal interpretations by the Justice Department. Libby, who was to become Cheney's chief of staff, provided legal representation for Rich from time to time between 1985 and 2000.
Libby was indicted in October 2005 for lying and obstruction of justice in the investigation of the Bush Administration's "outing" of CIA employee Valerie Plame.
CHENEY PLAYS IN "RICHLAND"
In a detailed examination of Cheney's lucrative job as head of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000, Jane Mayer, writing for The New Yorker in February 2004, describes Cheney as having been able to override Central Intelligence Agency and State Department objections to win a U.S. government Export-Import Bank loan of nearly $500 million for the Russian Tyumen oil firm. This deal enabled Halliburton to contract with Tyumen for oil development in Siberian oil fields. Halliburton's press release announcing the deal in October 1998 said Tyumen is "one of the six largest Russian oil companies" with "proven oil reserves of 4.3 billion barrels and probable and possible reserves of 6.1 billion barrels."
Mayer reports that Cheney "almost lost the Export-Import loan when the State Department attempted to block it, on the ground that Tyumen was involved in illegal activity." Cheney, the report continues, who personally lobbied for the loan, "was particularly incensed by the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency, which sided with the State Department."
In the Tyumen initiative, Cheney was engaging Halliburton in a part of the world where Rich was a central figure in oil. "In the early 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed," Business Week said, "Rich quickly became the most powerful trader there." And: "Rich had long ties with Mikhail Fridman, and his mammoth Alfa Group," which owns Tyumen Oil, the recipient of the Export-Import loan.
The Public i reported in 2000 that Tyumen's lead lawyer at the influential Washington law firm Akin Gump was James Langdon, a Bush "Pioneer", that is a person who raised $100,000 or more for the Bush campaign. In June, 2000, the report said, Langdon organized a $2.2 million fund-raiser for Bush.
HALLIBURTON AT THE SADDAM OIL PARTY
Business Week reports that Fridman's Alfa group paid "illegal surcharges to Saddam (Hussein) during Oil for Food, which Alfa denies."
The article also reports that Rich bought oil from Alfa units during Oil for Food; one of the units was Tyumen, Halliburton's oil development partner. Various reports suggest that Rich and his associates played a substantial role in getting oil past sanctions against Iraq.
Halliburton is also connected to Iraq oil through one of its branches, Dresser Industries, which provided oil equipment to Saddam. Mayer reports, as do others, that Halliburton "illegally evaded U.S. sanctions by conducting its oil-service business through foreign subsidiaries that had once been owned by Dresser (Industries)", a firm Halliburton bought in 1998 under Cheney's guidance. And Mayer says, "The use of foreign subsidiaries may have helped the company to avoid paying U.S. taxes."
The Iraq oil world under Saddam appears to be much like the Iraq oil world of today, one made for, and to some extent by, Rich and his colleagues, a world in which there is no accountability and in which great wealth can be accumulated illegally. There has been no reporting on the current handling of Iraqi oil in terms of who is buying and shipping it and who are the beneficiaries.
WELCOME TO NIGERIA AND OTHER PLACES OF SADNESS
Rich has long involvement in Nigerian oil, getting purchasing priviliges from succeeding governments. Chido Nwanga, writing for USAfricaonline in March 2001, reported that "Rich has been a key player for well over 25 years in Nigeria's export of its crude oil...In fact, at certain points in Nigeria's recent economic history, Marc Rich has been the kingpin." Reports say that Rich was involved in shipping Nigerian oil into apartheid South Africa and that he may have been the primary oil sanctions buster.
Halliburton is reported to be under investigation by Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and French officials in connection with bribery charges in Nigeria. An SEC spokesman said that the agency would have no comment on whether or not an investigation is underway.
Mobolaji Aluko reported in Nigeria Village Square in June 2004 that the Halliburton investigation involved $180 million in bribes that may have been paid by the firm to smooth the way for a $6 billion gas liquification plant it built for Shell Oil. The bribes, which were said to have been paid between 1995 and 2000, are believed to have passed through a company, Aluko reported, "operated by a British lawyer, Jeffrey Tesler (a Halliburton employee for 30 years), alleged to be connected with high government officials such as former Oil Minister Don Etet and military head of state late General Sani Abacha."
USAfrica cited a report in 1998 by James Rupert of the Washington Post Foreign Service that: "Nigeria's main trading partners in the Abacha era have been the London-based firms Arcadia and Addax, and the Swiss-based Glencore, which was under the control of Marc Rich..." The Nation reported in October 2004 that "Tesler was the financial advisor to the late dictator Gen. Sani Abacha and controlled his personal fortune, while at the same time working for Halliburton."
The Nation also reported that French investigators were targetting Cheney in relation to the bribes, which occured during his tenure as head of Halliburton. The French got involved because a French company was part of the construction venture. And the Nation quoted Journal du Dimanche: "...it is probable that some of the 'retrocommissions (bribes)' found their way back to th U.S.", and the French report asked whether the money might have gone to Halliburton officials or the Republican Party. The Nation noted: "These questions have gone unasked by America's media."
In addition, Truthout reported, "in oil-rich Nigeria, Halliburton worked with Shell and Chevron, which were implicated in gross human rights violations and environmental calamities in that country. Cheney's firm increased its involvement in the Niger Delta after the military government executed several ecology activists and crushed popular protests against the oil industry."
Truthout reported also: "Human rights activists have also criticized Cheney's company for its questionable role in Algeria, Angola, Bosnia, Croatia, Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia, Indonesia and other volatile trouble spots."
It has also been reported that Rich-style oil trading has been pulling oil out of the large reserves in Sudan, whose government has been charged with hundreds of thousands of deaths in western Sudan. The U.S. government, however, has taken a relatively soft position toward the behavior of the Sudanese leadership.
A PLAME GAME?
The Daily Kos reported in July 2005, that Valerie Plame, who was "outed" to journalists as a CIA undercover employee as early as June 2003, was working for a CIA cover business called Brewster Jennings and Associates and that this entity, shut down after the "outing", apparently had the responsibility to monitor developments in weapons of mass destruction. But it was involved in reporting on the oil trade, particularly as it related to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO). ARAMCO is a combine, involving the Saudi royal family and major U.S. oil companies, that runs Saudi Arabia's oil fields. Plame described herself to friends as an energy analyst.
Depending on Plame's responsibilities within Brewster Jennings, she would have been in a position to know a little or a great deal about Marc Rich, his colleagues and relationships that may exist between Rich, Cheney and Halliburton. Plame's "outing" has been viewed as a punishment for an attack by her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, on Bush pre-occupation claims about Saddam's nuclear capability. However, recent reports that Plame's CIA work may have been disclosed to one or more reporters before Wilson's attack was published, raise questions about the intent of the "outing". The Washington Post reported Nov. 13, 2005 that Cheney "is shown by the indictment (of Libby) to be interested in Plame and her CIA status long before her cover was blown."
Wilson was reported to have begun work on the John Kerry presidential campaign in May, 2003 as an unpaid foreign policy consultant. Might it be possible that administration officials feared that Plame could provide her husband with damaging information in the run-up to the 2004 election, particularly as she might have been in a position to continually monitor the growth of the new "Rich World" in Iraq. Possibly Cheney had come in contact with Plame when the CIA challenged the deal he was promoting to get the Export-Import loan for Tyumen Oil.
There are internet reports suggesting that CIA objections to the Tyumen Export-Import loan may have been related in part to drug trade. Thunderbay, indymedia.org, reported, for example, that in 1995, drugs were found in a railroad container leased by Alfa Echo, part of the Alfa Group, which also owns Tyumen. "The drug smuggling route was further exposed after the (the Russian) Ministry of Internal Affairs raided Alfa Echo buildings and found drugs and comprising documentation."
The issue of drug smuggling through Russia has become more significant since the explosion of opium production in Afghanistan following the U.S. occupation of that country in 2001. A 2003 report from NATO Parliamentary Assembly said that 70 percent of the opium and 100 percent of the herion consumed in Europe comes from Afghanistan. The drug route through Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia, the report said, "is more and more widely used by drug dealers for deliveries of herion and opium to European countries."
The report noted that officials in Afghanistan are involved in drug trafficking and that a provincial police chief "engaged U.S. helicopters given by the U.S. command to combat terrorists and the Taliban fighters (for) his own purposes. He engaged the helicopters to transport large shipments of drugs to the north of the country from where they were smuggled to drug dealers in the neighboring Central Asia states."
There are no reports to suggest that Plame knew of connections between oil and drug trading. However, her position at the CIA, at what may have been a center for reporting on these matters, raises some extremely important questions. For example, is there evidence of connections between oil trading and drug trafficking? To what degree are U.S. military, mercenary, intelligence forces and U.S. firms involved in illegal oil trade or drug trafficking? Is oil or drug money being used to help finance the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the way that drug money was used to finance other U.S. wars?