- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2005

A Senate panel yesterday formally referred to U.S. and British legal authorities its finding that British lawmaker George Galloway lied under oath when he denied taking secret payoffs under the Iraq oil-for-food program.

Investigators with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations said Mr. Galloway faces charges of perjury and obstructing a congressional inquiry for his flamboyant May 17 testimony, in which he categorically denied any wrongdoing and called the Senate probe “the mother of all smoke screens.”

Subcommittee Chairman Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, and ranking minority member Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, said their findings have been sent to the Justice Department, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and the district attorney for New York County.

A Justice Department spokesman said over the weekend that the government would study any congressional referral.

“We’re obligated to investigate any potentially criminal matter brought to our attention, review it and take it from there,” a department spokesman said.

In addition, the subcommittee has asked the U.S. Embassy in London to forward the findings to legal and regulatory bodies in Britain that deal with parliamentary ethics and the oversight of charities. Other British legal bodies, including the Home Office and the Royal Courts of Justice, also may be given the report.

The referral sets the stage for a bitter legal showdown with Mr. Galloway, the outspoken member of Parliament who was fiercely critical of international sanctions on Iraq and of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Galloway has dared the subcommittee to seek perjury charges against him, vowing to come immediately to the United States to clear his name.

Despite Mr. Galloway’s sworn denials at the May 17 hearing, the subcommittee said bank records and interviews with top Iraqi officials indicated that Mr. Galloway received nearly $600,000 from secret oil-for-food deals.

A Jordanian businessman who worked closely with Mr. Galloway negotiated the deals on his behalf, and laundered the money through accounts belonging to Mr. Galloway’s now-estranged wife or through a charity/lobbying organization Mr. Galloway controlled, the Senate panel said.

A separate U.N. investigation headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker last month also concluded that Mr. Galloway had received secret oil-for-food payoffs, revealing another $120,000 payment it said was given to Mr. Galloway’s wife.

The Volcker report detailed similar payoff schemes by Saddam’s regime to a host of international figures, from the head of Russia’s Communist Party to leading French and Italian politicians to senior U.N. officials administering the oil-for-food program.

Mr. Galloway has insisted that he was unaware of any secret payoffs, and said Iraqi government documents listing him as a recipient of Saddam’s bribes were forged to embarrass him.

His defenders have pointed to recent comments by former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz — who was interviewed by both Mr. Coleman’s panel and by the Volcker commission — denying reports that he had implicated Mr. Galloway in oil-for-food deals.

The reports “are part of a media campaign aimed at smearing Galloway’s reputation,” Badia Aref, Mr. Aziz’s attorney, told reporters in Jordan late last month.

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