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Monday, December 13, 2004

Marc Rich Central Figure In U.N. Scandal

CITY, FED PROBES EYE PARDONGATE BILLIONAIRE AS A 'MAJOR PLAYER' IN SADDAM'S SCAM.

WASHINGTON — Billionaire Marc Rich has emerged as a central figure in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal and is under investigation for brokering deals in which scores of international politicians and businessmen cashed in on sweetheart oil deals with Saddam Hussein, The Post has learned.

Rich, the fugitive Swiss-based commodities trader who received a controversial pardon from President Bill Clinton in January 2001, is a primary target of criminal probes under way in the U.S. attorney's office in New York and by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, sources said.

"We think he was a major player in this — a central figure," a senior law-enforcement official told The Post.

Investigators are looking into a series of deals that took place in the months after his pardon from Clinton. If criminal wrongdoing is established in these deals, he could be subject to prosecution.

Investigators say they have received information that Rich and Ben Pollner, a New York-based oil trader who heads Taurus Oil, set up a series of companies in Liechtenstein and other countries that they used to put together deals between Saddam and his international supporters in the controversial oil-voucher scheme — which the dictator designed to win international support against U.S. sanctions at the United Nations.

Under the scam, hundreds of international political and financial figures from France, Russia and other countries were awarded middleman vouchers allowing them to purchase set quantities of Iraqi oil at discount rates.

These so-called "non-end users" could then resell the oil on the open market and make profits of up to 50 cents a barrel. Benon Sevan, who headed the U.N. oil-for-food program, is among those listed in Iraqi Oil Ministry documents as having been a recipient of the vouchers.

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