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Legislator faces ban over ties to Saddam’s regime

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2007

LONDON — Scotland Yard is to take the first steps toward a criminal investigation against member of Parliament George Galloway, who faces an 18-day suspension from the House of Commons over his financial links to Saddam Hussein's regime.

Detectives are to seek documents from the Serious Fraud Office, which carried out a previous investigation, to establish whether there are grounds to charge Mr. Galloway with fraud.

The police may seek his bank accounts after a report by Philip Mawer, the parliamentary standards commissioner, concluded yesterday that Mr. Galloway's Mariam Appeal charity received large sums from Saddam's manipulation of the U.N. oil-for-food program.

Mr. Mawer said: "Mr. Galloway has consistently denied, prevaricated and fudged in relation to the now undeniable evidence that the Mariam Appeal, and he indirectly through it, received money derived, via the oil for food program, from the Iraqi regime."

He added: "Mr. Galloway through his controlling position in the appeal, benefited from those monies, in terms of furtherance of his political objectives." He went on to say that Mr. Galloway had "received such support at least recklessly or negligently, and probably knowingly."

But Mr. Mawer said there was no evidence that Mr. Galloway had benefited personally from the program or that any funds had entered his personal bank account.

The 181-page report said Mr. Galloway had "consistently failed to live up to the expectation of openness and straightforwardness."

The House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, in recommending the 18-day ban, said Mr. Galloway had been "complicit" in the concealment of the true source of funds for the Mariam Appeal. Members of Parliament will vote on the ban, which would begin when Parliament resumes after the summer recess.

Mr. Galloway called the inquiry a "politicized tribunal." Speaking outside the House of Commons, he said: "I challenged everything that [parliamentary investigators] put to me because the points they were putting to me were false. I will not allow people to make false allegations against me.

"I am not a punch bag. If you aim low blows at me I will fight back. That's what I've done and that's what I've been suspended for. I was campaigning against sanctions and war on Iraq.

"If these people behind me had listened to me, hundreds of thousands of people now dead would still be alive and Britain would not be in peril, here at home and around the world. They should be striking a medal for me for my work on Iraq, not suspending me."

The investigation was triggered by the discovery of documents purporting to be about Mr. Galloway in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Baghdad in April 2003, shortly after Saddam's overthrow. The papers claimed to show that Mr. Galloway received funds from Saddam's regime for the Mariam Appeal.