Friday, November 18, 2005

Mérimée admits to French businessman status

Was there much question as to it's inevitability? The Telegraph reports:
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.

No decisions have been announced about possible criminal charges against Mr Mérimée. He told the judge that he did not declare the income to the tax authorities, according to Le Figaro.
I remember back when Mitterand was French President, though I don't remember the specific period. It was at a time when the US was having trouble competing in the foreign market across a spectrum of the high revenue, low volume industries, e.g., Defense and Aerospace. The controversy focused on the culture of kickbacks -- the US had laws strictly forbidding them. A lot of the rest of the world didn't have quite the same view, either outright saying so or just by talking the talk but not walking the walk. The French, if I remember correctly, stood somewhere in-between.

Now I don't quite rightly remember whether Mitterand in the midst of the hot debate threw out the idea that it was just a cost of doing business, or not. I am somewhat fuzzy on the specifics in that it is clouded by the time Mitterand admitting wonderment over the Americans making a big fuss about an adultery scandal.

But the arms trade corruption scandals of the time were big news and, in France it was a spider web of corruption. ELF was in the news then just as it still is now.

So, I am not at all surprised by reportedly having said "All trouble is worth a wage." But I am mighty angry. That feeling runs through the minds of assassins everywhere, too, as I am sure they also have houses to renovate. Their trouble, though, is much more hands on than Mérimée's likely was. But that won't be known unless the serious side heightens the public pressure for demanding the details of what "trouble" was done.

But at the same time, the lighter side should still participate. Here's my contribution: Who will be the first to note in defense, "It's dirty work, but someone had to do it"?

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