The Company He Keeps: How Bill Timmons’ partners grifted Saddam Hussein

McCain aide William Timmons’ partners’ in his influence effort on behalf of Saddam Hussein, whom I wrote about in my Huffington Post story today, were Samir Vincent and Tongsun Park. Vincent pled guilty to federal criminal charges that acted as an unregistered agents of Saddam’s government; Park was convicted of similar charges after Vincent testified as a government witness against him that Park was also a covert agent of Saddam Hussein. Park was sentenced to five years in prison.

Timmons has claimed that he was unaware of much of what Vincent and Park were up to while he worked with them.

However, as my Huffington Post article makes clear, Timmons clearly was aware of Park’s notorious background when he introduced Vincent to Park:

In the 1970s, Park had admitted to making hundreds of thousands in payments and illegal campaign contriubtion to U.S. congresmen on behalf of the South Korean government. In 1977, Park was indicted by a federa grand jury of 36 counts of bribery, money laundering, making illegal campaign contributions, and acting as an unregistered agent of the South Korea Intelligence Agency. Rather than face trial Park fled to South Korea. All of the charges were later dismissed n exchange for Park providing information to federal and congressional investigators about which public officials received funds from the South Korean government.

So what became of Vincent and Park hooking up as a result of Timmons encouragement they do so?

Apparently behind Timmons’ back, Vincent, Park, and the Iraqis had an even more aggressive-and illegal- second track in play to convince the United Nations to ease or bring to an end sanctions: They would simply bribe the Secretary General of the U.N.

In April, 1995, according to the U.N.’s report on the oil-for food program, Saddam Hussein’s regime fomally made the decision to bribe Boutros Ghali. Vincent and Park were paid more millions of dollars to pay the bribes and facilitate the scheme.

If they succeeded entirely, the Iraqis promise to pay Vincent and Samir as much as $15 million.

Vincent has testified and told investigators that he and Park simply pocketed the money the Iraqis paid to them, and never even attempted to bribe Boutros Ghali. Boutros Ghali has denied that he was bribed, or that he even knew about the scheme at all, and there is no evidence to contradict him.

One of the reasons that the Iraqis were hoodwinked was that Tongsun Park, despite his notorious past, was able to ingratiate himself with Boutros Ghali. Park had more than a dozen meetings with Boutros Ghali at his office and residence during this period, and traded countless phone calls.

Boutros Ghali explained his relationship to investigators for the U.N. this way: “Because [Boutros Ghali] did not have a formal intelligence service at the United Nations, he felt compelled to supplement his knowledge through private sources and informal channels of communications.” Park, said Boutros Ghali, provided him “with “first class information”; “knew everyone”; and was “an integral part of the Washington nomenclatura.”

The Iraqis, intent on paying bribes to Boutros Ghali, did their part, even if they were only being hoodwinked by Vincent and Park, to get the money to the to two men.

In one instance, according to a U.N. investigative report, Vincent was given a half million dollars in a briefcase in a non-descript government office in Baghdad. Once back in the United States, Vincent met with Park and gave him his cut by handing him “a grocery shopping back” filled with “old bills.”

In another effort to get funds to Vincent and Park for the fictitious bribery scheme, hundreds of thousands of dollars was “delivered to New York via diplomatic pouch to avoid the risk of detection by custom officials,” says one volume of the Volcker report, “According to a staff member who worked at the Iraqi Mission, diplomatic pouches, the contents of which are immune to customs review, were carried by an individual who was often an Iraqi Intelligence Service member.”

In another instance, Park actually did pay almost a million dollars to a senior U.N. official who the Iraqis were intent to influence.

Describing this particular payment, a U.N. report said: “Before [Park] left Baghdad, Mr. Aziz gave Mr. Park $1 million in cash in a cardboard box, and then he arranged for Mr. Park to be escorted to the Jordanian boarder.” Once in Amman, Park had the money deposited in a bank there. The same day he opened the bank count, a bank check for $988,996 was made payable to the U.N. official, Maurice Strong. (Strong admits that he cashed the check but claims that he never knew that the money originated from Iraq.)

At the end of the day, apparently Saddam Hussein was grifted by his American lobbyists.

The late Edward Von Kloberg, also a lobbyist for Saddam, also apparently took money from the gullible dictator for services he actually never provided. As Mark Steyn wrote in the Atlantic:

According to the U.S. government’s Foreign Agents Registration records, he billed Saddam Hussein for several prominent op-eds that appeared in The New York Times. When the journalist Murray Waas called up the authors, none had heard of von Kloberg. Fraudwise, it’s small beer next to Saddam and his oil-for-food racket. But even so, bilking the Baathists took some nerve. Von Kloberg was an expert at schmoozing friendless regimes into picking up the tab for his social life, a one-man oily-for-food program he kept running for two decades.

Here is a column that I wrote about Von Kloberg shortly after his death.

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