Saddam Hussein has diverted as much as $10 billion of Iraq's oil earnings for his own use, and successfully hidden his fortune in an intricate web of foreign assets, a broadcast report said.
The CBS news program "60 Minutes" Sunday quoted a private investigator hired by Kuwait to look into Saddam's wealth as saying the Iraqi leader has taken as much as 5 percent from his country's oil earnings alone."This is an organized crime activity that has been going on for a long time," said Jules Kroll, a New York-based investigator hired by the Kuwaiti government, which charges Iraq plundered the desert kingdom after invading last August.
Kroll said Saddam himself has taken "between $10 and $11 billion" of Iraq's oil revenues, a figure representing about 5 percent of the nation's oil earnings.
Saddam and his family also have siphoned money from a variety of other sources, Kroll said.
For instance, 2.5 percent of the proceeds of Japan's business with Iraq is diverted into a Japanese bank account for Saddam, the investigator said.
Kroll said that Iraqi leaders have set up a "network outside the country that has vast, vast assets."
"We have uncovered Iraqi front companies stretching from Italy to France to Germany to the Channel Islands to the U.K." as well as the United States, Kroll said.
Saddam's financial empire is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and is run by his half-brother, Barzan Altakriti, the program reported.
Among the holdings are a Panamanian-registered company called Montana Management, which owns 8.4 percent of the French media conglomerate Hachette, the owner of such popular magazines as Elle, Woman's Day, Car and Driver and Road and Track, Kroll said.
Barzan Altakriti, however, denied his family had any interests in Montana Management.