Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Hitch, writing from his summer home on Bizarro World, defends Chalabi:

The last time I saw Dr. Chalabi, as it happens, he was telling the amusing story of the recall of the Iraqi dinar. In one of its better decisions, the Bremer regime in Baghdad had printed a new currency without the face of the dictator and told people to bring in their old bills and exchange them. According to Chalabi, a vast amount of extra currency—very much more than anticipated or known about by the Iraqi National Bank—had been turned in. The debauching and bankrupting of Iraq, he said, had been much greater even than he had feared. Some Baathist leaders had obviously been printing their own dough. We had a bit of a laugh about it: Some of the money I had seen looked as if it had been run off on an old Xerox machine.

In the interlude between the recall of the old notes and the issuance of the new ones, a few sporting types may well have tried to print a freelance version for themselves. And these became, when discovered, the property of the Finance Ministry, over which Chalabi had some jurisdiction. But on Jan. 16 the old notes became valueless. And the sudden raid on Chalabi's home took place on May 20. So if there were any samples of dud money lying around, they would only prove, if they proved anything, that he was either a collector of curios or a fool. His worst enemy has not alleged the second charge.

Hmm. That doesn't quite jibe with this, does it?

For several months, U.S. officials have been investigating people affiliated with the INC for possible ties to a scheme to defraud the Iraqi government during the transition to a new currency that took place from Oct. 15 last year to Jan. 15, according to a U.S. occupation authority official familiar with the case. The official said the raids were partly related to that investigation.
At the center of the inquiry is Nouri, whom Chalabi picked as the top anti-corruption official in the new Iraqi Finance Ministry. Chalabi heads the Governing Council's finance committee, and has major influence in its staffing and operation.

When auditors early this year began counting the old Iraqi dinars brought in and the new Iraqi dinars given out in return, they discovered a shortfall of more than $22 million. Nouri, a German national, was arrested in April and faces 17 charges including extortion, fraud, embezzlement, theft of government property and abuse of authority. He is being held in a maximum security facility, according to three sources close to the investigation.

Hey, Chalabi got the date right. Clearly he's a paragon of virtue.

So we 'know' what the Jordanians had against him, and what the CIA has against him... but what have the Swiss got against him?

By the late 1980s, the Chalabi family bank in Switzerland, Mebco Geneva, had come under scrutiny from Swiss regulators. In April 1989 they revoked its license. "The result of this action in Switzerland was to cause a run on the other financial institutions in the group [Mebco Beirut and Petra]," says Chalabi. He claims that by mid-May the situation had been "stabilized." But as Swiss investigators, the Jordan Central Bank and the Lebanese stepped up their inquiries, more and more dubious loans from one Chalabi institution to another surfaced on the books.

Those darn Swiss, always taking sides...

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