I Took Saddam’s Cash
Sign Up for Updates
One of France’s most distinguished diplomats has confessed to an investigating judge that he accepted oil allocations from Saddam Hussein, it emerged yesterday.
Jean-Bernard Mérimée is thought to be the first senior figure to admit his role in the oil-for-food scandal, a United Nations humanitarian aid scheme hijacked by Saddam to buy influence.
The Frenchman, who holds the title “ambassador for life”, told authorities that he regretted taking payments amounting to $156,000 (then worth about £108,000) in 2002.
The money was used to renovate a holiday home he owned in southern Morocco. At the time, Mr Mérimée was a special adviser to Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general.
According to yesterday’s Le Figaro, he told judge Philippe Courroye during an interview on Oct 12: “I should not have done what I did. I regret it.”
But he also said that the payments were made in recompense for work he had done on Iraq’s behalf. “All trouble is worth a wage,” he is reported to have said.
It is good that Mérimée is regretful, but his excuse is troublesome.
The oil-for-food program was meant to help bring food to the people of Iraq, yet Mérimée feels that his efforts on behalf of Saddam were somehow worthy of a wage, that the theft of food from Iraqi’s was somehow helpful. The money was certainly helpful in restoring his holiday home in Morocco.