They’re lucky they weren’t charged with treason. Via the Houston Chronicle:
Houston oilman David Chalmers, accused of funneling illegal payments to Saddam Hussein’s regime at at time when Iraq was the target of strict economic sanctions, pleaded guilty today to a conspiracy charge.
Chalmers’ business associate at Houston-based BayOil, Ludmil Dionissiev, pleaded guilty to one count of facilitating a shipment of merchandise into the United States, knowing that shipment to not be authorized by law.
That leaves Houston oil tycoon Oscar Wyatt as the lone defendant still slated to go to trial in September on charges he made millions of dollars in illicit payments to Saddam’s government for the privilege of buying Iraqi crude.
Wyatt attorney Carl Parker said today that his client is not guilty and intends to proceed to trial. Parker said he does not believe today’s guilty pleas will affect Wyatt’s prospects.
“I don’t think it will mean anything to Wyatt,” Parker said. “I think the government made a stretch trying to tie them together in the first place. They’re not partners. They haven’t acted together.”
The charges stemmed from oil sales conducted under the United Nations’ scandal-plagued oil-for-food humanitarian program for Iraq.
That program was designed to allow Baghdad to export crude to help the Iraqi people while keeping the proceeds out of Saddam’s hands.
But the Iraqi government began demanding that purchasers pay a secret surcharge to lift Iraqi crude. All three men were accused of funneling payments to Saddam’s government from mid-2000 to March 2003.
So, Oscar Wyatt is still set to go to trial. Here’s the latest on his case. Like I said, he’s lucky he isn’t charged with treason:
Oscar Wyatt’s defense lawyers are trying to ensure a jury never sees an Iraqi document they say suggests the Houston oil tycoon “has committed the deplorable crime of treason.”
The 82-year-old Texas oilman is slated to stand trial in September on charges he funneled millions of dollars in illegal payments to Saddam Hussein’s government in order to win lucrative oil export contracts.
The document in question suggests Wyatt discussed American troop levels and possible dates for an attack with members of Saddam’s regime, prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
While the purported discussion about troop levels and attack dates are reminiscent of some of the armchair speculation common in the runup to the war, the details varied from what actually occurred when the war started.
Wyatt attorney Gerald Shargel, in an interview today, said the document contains “not a single fact that wasn’t reported in media outlets both in the United States and internationally, not a single fact.”
In a motion filed late Monday in U.S. District Court, Wyatt’s lawyers argue: “This document essentially alleges that Wyatt has committed the deplorable crime of treason and aided an enemy of the United States.” The filing does not contain the document itself, although Wyatt’s lawyers have confirmed it is the one obtained by the Chronicle from other sources.
Wyatt’s lawyers want U.S. District Judge Denny Chin to keep the document from being presented as evidence at the trial because “such actions would likely to be considered repugnant by most Americans and could potentially cause bias.”
If you haven’t checked out the Oil-for-Food Facts website, you should.