COLEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Galloway.
Committee chairman Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., is pictured during testimony by British legislator MP George Galloway at the Senate subcommittee for Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Capitol Hill Tuesday, May 17, 2005, in Washington.|| |
Mr. Galloway, can we start by talking about Fawaz Zureikat. Do you know the individual?
GALLOWAY: I know him very well.
COLEMAN: In fact you were Best Man at his wedding?
GALLOWAY: I was.
COLEMAN: And at some point in time he became chair of Mariam’s Appeals. Is that correct?
GALLOWAY: He did. Yeah.
COLEMAN: And can you tell me when that occurred?
GALLOWAY: I think in late 2000 or early 2001.
COLEMAN: Before Mr. Zureikat was chair of Mariam’s Appeal, who had that position?
GALLOWAY: I was the founding chairman.
COLEMAN: Was there someone between you and —
GALLOWAY: Mr. Hoffman (?)
COLEMAN: And do you recall when he had that position?
GALLOWAY: I don’t.
COLEMAN: Mr. Zureikat was a significant contributor to Mariam’s Appeals. Is that correct?
GALLOWAY: He was the second biggest contributor. The main contributor was Sheik Zayed, the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, which you’ve glossed over in your report because it’s slightly embarrassing to you. And the third major contributor was the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, which you’ve equally glossed over because it’s embarrassing to you.
|British lawmaker George Galloway, the Respect Party leader, arrives to talk to supporters during a rally in London, Wednesday May 18, 2005.
MP Galloway returned back to London on Wednesday confident he won the showdown with US senators on Capitol Hill in Washington, USA, who have accused him of profiting from Iraq's oil-for-food scandal.
And both of those individuals are your friends.
COLEMAN: How much did Mr. Zureikat contribute to Mariam’s Appeals?
GALLOWAY: Roughly 375,000 English pounds.
COLEMAN: About $600,000?
GALLOWAY: I don’t know the conversion. But it’s 375,000 Sterling.
COLEMAN: If you can, uh... By the way, Mr. Zureikat was your representative — uh, designated representative — for the activities of Mariam’s Appeals. Is that correct?
GALLOWAY: For the activities of Mariam’s Appeals. Yes.
COLEMAN: And when did he get that position?
GALLOWAY: I think late 2000.
COLEMAN: Late 2000. Looking at Exhibit 9 — and I think you have the books in front of you — that appears to be a document from the Ministry of Oil that testimony has indicated that the signature is an accurate signature.
Do you have any reason to believe that that document is false?
GALLOWAY: Well, I have told you that I have never heard of Aredio Petroleum, and I’ve told you that the Mariam Appeal never received a single penny from Aredio Petroleum. So the information at the top of the page, if you’ve translated it accurately, is false.
COLEMAN: Have you heard of Middle East ASI company?
GALLOWAY: Yes. That’s Mr. Zureikat’s company.
COLEMAN: I turn to Exhibit 12.
And that purports again to be a stamp of the Ministry of Oil of Iraq and this purports to be showing the details of a contract signed with Middle East ASI company, Mr. George Galloway and Fuwaz Zureikat. So Middle East ASI is Mr. Zureikat’s company?
GALLOWAY: Middle East ASI is Mr. Zureikat’s company. He may well have signed an oil contract. It had nothing to do with me.
COLEMAN: He was chair of Mariam’s Appeals in 2000. I take it you knew him well. Did he ever talk with you about his dealings with oil in Iraq?
GALLOWAY: He did better than that. He talked to everybody. He talked to every English journalist that came through Baghdad — who he helped at our request to get the interviews and to get to the places that they wanted and needed to go. He was introduced to everyone as a major benefactor of the Mariam Appeal and as a businessman doing extensive business in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
COLEMAN: I’m asking you specifically, In 2001 were you aware he was doing oil deals with Iraq?
GALLOWAY: I was aware that he was doing extensive business with Iraq. I did not know the details of it. It was not my business.
COLEMAN: So this is somebody who was the chairman of committee that you know well and you’re not able to say that he was...
GALLOWAY: Well, there’s a lot of contributors - I’ve just been checking — to your political campaigns.
COLEMAN: There’s not many at that level, Mr. Galloway —
|Respect Party leader George Galloway is hoisted onto the shoulders of supporters as he arrives in Brick Lane after winning the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency vote, in east London in this May 6, 2005.|| |
GALLOWAY: I’ve checked your website. There are lots of contributors to your political campaign funds. I don’t suppose you ask any of them how they made the money they give you.
COLEMAN: Certainly not at $600,000 American.
But let me ask you again, just so that the record is clear — that it’s clear on the record — that you’re not contesting then the validity of Document 12, Exhibit 12. You’re indicating that Mr. Zureikat could have had dealings with Iraq. You’re saying that at that point in time you’re not aware that he had oil dealings with Iraq?
GALLOWAY: First of all, I’ve only seen this document today. And I’m telling you that insofar as my name is in a parenthesis the information in it is false.
I’ve no reason to believe that Mr. Zureikat’s company didn’t do that particular oil deal.
But this is your problem in this whole affair. There is nobody arguing that Mr. Zureikat’s company did not do oil transactions and many other — much bigger, frankly — business contracts with Iraq. There is nobody contesting that Mr. Zureikat made substantial donations to our campaign against sanctions and war.
My point is — you have accused me, personally, of enriching myself, of taking money from Iraq. And that is false and unjust.
COLEMAN: Mr. Galloway, do you recall an interview you had with a Jeremy Paxman in April 23 of 2003,
(Addressing aide) Can we have a copy of the transcript of that?
I’d like to refresh your memory.
(To aide) Can you get a copy of that.
As we get you a copy, you were asked a question, talking about business dealings with Mr. Zureikat in Iraq. And at the least the transcript that I have — and I’d ask you to let me know if it’s incorrect — your quote is, something about business in Iraq
"Well, I’m trying to reach him" — this is in 2003 — "I’m trying to reach him to ask him if he’s ever been involved in oil deals because I don’t know the answer to that." So in 2003 you’re saying you don’t know the answer to whether he was involved in oil deals?
GALLOWAY: Well, I told you in my previous two answers — I knew that Mr. Zureikat was heavily involved in business in Iraq and elsewhere, but that it was none of my business what particular transactions or business he was involved in — any more than you ask the American and Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) when they donate money to you or pay for your trips to Israel, where they got the money from.
COLEMAN: So Mr. Galloway, you would have this committee believe that your designated representative from the Mariam’s Appeal becomes the chair of the Mariam’s Appeal, was listed in Iraqi documents as obviously doing business, oil deals with Iraq, that you never had a conversation with him in 2001 or whether he was doing oil business with Iraq.
GALLOWAY: No, I’m doing better than that. I’m telling you that I knew that he was doing a vast amount of business with Iraq. Much bigger, as I said a couple of answers ago, than any oil business he did. In the airports he was the representative of some of the world’s biggest companies in Iraq. He was an extremely wealthy businessman doing very extensive business in Iraq.
Not only did I know that, but I told everyone about it. I emblazoned it in our literature, on our Web site, precisely so that people like you could not later credibly question my bonafides in that regard. So I did better than that.
I never asked him if he was trading in oil. I knew he was a big trader with Iraq, and I told everybody about it.
COLEMAN: So in 2003, when you said you didn’t know whether he was doing oil deals, were you telling the truth at that time?
GALLOWAY: Yes, I was. I’ve never known until the Telegraph story appeared that he was alleged to be doing oil deals. But his oil deals are about one-tenth of the business that he did in Iraq. So I did better than telling people about his oil deals. I told them he was doing much, much more than that.
COLEMAN: So Exhibit 14, which purports to be a contract with Middle East Semiconductor, Contract M1214. Middle East Semiconductor, again, is Mr. Zureikat’s company, is that correct?
|Supporters of British lawmaker George Galloway, the Respect Party leader, applaud during a rally in London, Wednesday May 18, 2005.|
GALLOWAY: Yes, it is.
COLEMAN: So do you have any reason to believe that this document is false?
GALLOWAY: Well, the parenthesis, if the parenthesis implies — as you’ve been arguing all morning that it implies — that this was being signed for by Middle East Advanced Semiconductors in order to pass the money on to me, is false.
Mr. Zureikat and Middle East Semiconductors or any other company have never given me any money. And if they had, you would have it up here on a board, and in front of the committee here.
COLEMAN: I take it, Mr. Galloway, that in regard to any surcharges paid to Saddam — I think it’s Footnote 89, which refers to the surcharge for the contract, focused on Mariam’s Appeal — you’re saying that that document, first of all, any contract between Iraq and Mariam’s Appeals is false?
GALLOWAY: Well, Senator, I had gotten used to the allegation that I was taking money from Saddam Hussein. It’s actually surreal to hear in this room this morning that I’m being accused of giving money to Saddam Hussein.
This is utterly preposterous, utterly preposterous, that I gave $300,000 to Saddam Hussein. This is beyond the realms of the ridiculous.
Now. The Mariam Appeals finances have been investigated by the Charity Commission on the order of Lord Goldsmith.
(You’ll recall him, Senator. He’s the attorney general. Practically the only lawman in the world that thought your war with Iraq was legal, thought Britain joining your war with Iraq was legal.)
He ordered the Charity Commission to investigate the Mariam Appeal. Using their statutory powers, they recovered all money in and all money out ever received or spent by the Mariam Appeal. They found no impropriety. And I can assure you, they found no money from an oil contract from Aredio Petroleum — none whatsoever.
COLEMAN: And the commission did not look at these documents relating to this contract with Iraq. Is that correct? —
GALLOWAY: — No, but they looked better than that, Senator. —
COLEMAN: — I’m not asking you better. I’m asking the question whether they looked at these documents. —
GALLOWAY: — Senator, you’re not listening to what I am saying. They did better than that.
They looked at every penny in and every penny out. And they did not find, I can assure you, any trace of a donation from a company called Aredio Petroleum, or, frankly, a donation from any company other than Mr. Zureikat’s company. That’s a fact.
COLEMAN: If I can get back to Mr. Zureikat one more time. Do you recall a time when he specifically — when you had a conversation with him about oil dealings in Iraq?
GALLOWAY: I have already answered that question. I can assure you, Mr. Zureikat never gave me a penny from an oil deal, from a cake deal, from a bread deal, or from any deal. He donated money to our campaign, which we publicly brandished on all of our literature, along with the other donors to the campaign.
COLEMAN: Again, Mr. Galloway, a simple question. I’m looking for either a yes or no. Did you ever have a conversation with Mr. Zureikat where he informed you that he had oil dealings with Iraq, yes or no?
Sen. Norm Coleman and Sen. Carl Levin are pictured during testimony by British legislator MP George Galloway at the Senate subcommittee for Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Capitol Hill Tuesday, May 17, 2005, in Washington.
GALLOWAY: Not before this Daily Telegraph report, no.
COLEMAN: Senator Levin.
CARL LEVIN (D): Thank you, Mr. Galloway.
Mr. Galloway, could you take a look at the Exhibit Number 12...
LEVIN: ... where your name is in parenthesis after Mr. Zureikat’s?
GALLOWAY: Before Mr. Zureikat’s, if I’m looking at the right exhibit —
LEVIN: I’m sorry. I was going to finish my sentence — my question, though. My question was, where your name is in parenthesis after Mr. Zureikat’s company.
GALLOWAY: I apologize, Senator.
LEVIN: That’s all right. Now, that document — assuming it’s an accurate translation of the document underneath it — would you... you’re not alleging here today that the document is a forgery, I gather?
GALLOWAY: Well, I have no idea, Senator, if it’s a forgery or not.
LEVIN: But you’re not alleging.
GALLOWAY: I’m saying that the information insofar as it relates to me is fake.
LEVIN: I — is wrong?
GALLOWAY: It’s wrong.
LEVIN: But you’re not alleging that the document...
GALLOWAY: Well, I have no way of knowing, Senator.
LEVIN: That’s fine. So you’re not alleging?
GALLOWAY: No, I have no way — I have no way of knowing. This is the first time...
LEVIN: Is it fair to say since you don’t know, you’re not alleging?
GALLOWAY: Well, it would have been nice to have seen it before today.
LEVIN: Is it fair to say, though, that either because you’ve not seen it before or because — otherwise, you don’t know. You’re not alleging the document’s a fake. Is that fair to say?
GALLOWAY: I haven’t had it in my possession long enough to form a view about that.
LEVIN: All right. Would you let the subcommittee know after you’ve had it in your possession long enough whether you consider the document a fake.
GALLOWAY: Yes, although there is a — there is an academic quality about it, Senator Levin, because you have already found me guilty before you — before you actually allowed me to come here and speak for myself.
LEVIN: Well, in order to attempt to clear your name, would you...
GALLOWAY: Well, let’s be clear about something.
LEVIN: Well, let me finish my question. Let me be clear about that, first of all.
Would you submit to the subcommittee after you’ve had a chance to review this document whether or not, in your judgment, it is a forgery? Will you do that?
GALLOWAY: Well, if you will give me the original. I mean, this is not — presumably, you wrote this English translation.
LEVIN: Yes, and there’s a copy underneath it of the...
GALLOWAY: Well, yes, there is a copy of a gray blur. If you’ll give me — if you’ll give me the original ...
|British MP George Galloway goes on the attack accusing the U.S. government of numerous illegalities in Iraq.|
LEVIN: The copy of the original.
GALLOWAY: Give me the original in a decipherable way, then of course I’ll...
LEVIN: That would be fine. We appreciate that.
LEVIN: Now, at the bottom of this document, assuming — assuming it’s not a forgery for a moment, it says "surcharge." Are we together?
LEVIN: "As per the instructions of Your Excellency over the phone on 12/11/01 of not accepting the company’s proposal unless they pay the debt incurred since phase eight."
If, in fact — if, in fact, Mr. Zureikat’s company paid a surcharge or a kickback to the Iraqi government in order to obtain an allocation of oil, would that trouble you?
GALLOWAY: Well, as it turns out, from your own testimony, that practically everyone in the world, and especially the United States, was paying kickbacks.
LEVIN: My question... It troubles me a great deal. As you’ve heard from my statement today, I’m very much troubled that we have an oil company that was involved in this and we’re going to go after that oil company.
Now let me ask you. I’ve expressed my view about Bayoil. So now let met ask you about Mr. Zureikat’s company.
If in fact Mr. Zureikat’s company paid a kickback to the Iraqi government in order to obtain this allocation, would you be troubled? That’s my question.
GALLOWAY: Yeah. That’s a good question. And will you allow me to answer it seriously and not in a yes-or-no fashion? Because I could give you a glib—
LEVIN: Providing you give us an answer, I’d be delighted to hear it.
GALLOWAY: Here’s my answer and I hope it does delight you.
I opposed the Oil-for-Food program with all my heart. Not for the reasons that you are troubled by, but because it was a program which saw the death-I’m talking about the death now; I’m talking about a mass grave-of a million people, most of them children, in Iraq.
The Oil-for-Food program gave 30 cents per day per Iraqi for the period of the Oil-for-Food program-30 cents for all food, all medicine, all clothes, all schools, all hospitals, all public services.
I believe that the United Nations had no right to starve Iraq’s people because it had fallen out with Iraq’s dictator.
David Bonior, your former colleague, Senator, whom I admired very much — a former chief whip here on the Hill — described the sanctions policy as "infanticide masquerading as politics."
Senator Coleman thinks that’s funny, but I think it’s the most profound description of that era that I have ever read —infanticide masquerading as politics.
British lawmaker George Galloway, the Respect Party leader, pauses during a rally in London, Wednesday, May 18, 2005.
So I opposed this program with all my heart.
Not because Saddam was getting kickbacks from it — and I don’t know when it’s alleged these kickbacks started.
Not because some individuals were getting rich doing business with Iraq under it.
But because it was a murderous policy of killing huge numbers of Iraqis.
That’s what troubles me.
That’s what troubles me.
Now, if you’re asking me, "Is Mr. Zureikat in some difficulty?" — like all the other companies that it would appear paid kickbacks to the Iraqi regime — no doubt he is.
Although it would appear he’s quite small beer compared to the American companies that were involved in the same thing.
LEVIN: Now my question...
GALLOWAY: That’s what — I told you what troubles me.
LEVIN: I’m not asking you— (crosstalk)
My question... Now that you’ve given us your statement about your feeling about the Oil-for-Food program — My question is, Would you be troubled if you knew that Mr. Zureikat paid a kickback in order to get an allocation of an oil contract?
That’s a very simple question.
GALLOWAY: It’s Mr. Zureikat’s problem, not mine.
LEVIN: It would not trouble you?
LOWAY: It’s Mr. Zureikat’s problem, not mine.
LEVIN: And so that if a kickback, which was illegal under international — now you may not agree with the U.N., but that’s the international community that you’re attacking, which is fine.
You’re entitled to do that.
You’re entitled and I’ll defend your right to do it.
But you’re attacking a U.N. program — which is your right to do — which was aimed at providing humanitarian assistance to try to alleviate the problems that the sanctions provided — which is your right to do.
But my question — which you are so far evading — is, Would you be troubled if that U.N. Oil-for-Food program was being circumvented by the kind of kickbacks which were taking place and being given to Saddam Hussein in order to obtain allocations under that program if Mr. Zureikat participated in that kickback scheme, which violated the U.N. sanc... You may not have agreed with it, but it violated the program.
Would it trouble you if he violated that U.N. program in that way?
That’s my question.
|British MP George Galloway goes on the attack accusing the U.S. government of killing 100,000 people in Iraq.|
GALLOWAY: Senator, there are many things —
LEVIN: I know.
Other things trouble you.
But can you just give us a straightforward answer?
You’ve given us a long explanation of other things that trouble you, which is your right.
Now I’m asking you whether that troubles you.
GALLOWAY: It troubles me that it might put him in difficulty.
It troubles me that it might now lead to a prosecution of him.
It troubles me that this will be further smoke in the smokescreen.
But I, root and branch, opposed this (LEVIN: I understand...) Oil-for-Food program.
LEVIN: There were a lot of things you opposed, but you don’t believe should be circumvented in illegal ways. Isn’t that—
GALLOWAY: But, please, Senator!
You supported the illegal attack on Iraq.
Don’t talk to me about illegality—
LEVIN: Sorry about that.
But that’s beside the point. (Crosstalk) That’s beside the point. You’re wrong in your—
GALLOWAY: Well, I’m collectively talking about the Senate.
Not you personally.
LEVIN: Well, that’s okay.
Let me go back to my question.
I don’t want to get involved in—
GALLOWAY: Why not?
You want to talk about illegality?
GALLOWAY: You launched an illegal war, which has killed a 100,000 people.
You want me to be troubled?
LEVIN: No, I want you to answer questions which are fairly put and directly in front of you.
Now I’ll ask you one last — two last questions.
If — if — Mr. Zureikat’s contribution to Mariam’s Appeal came from the sale of oil — or his share of the sale from oil — which he was able to obtain because he paid a kickback in violation of the U.N. program.
Would that contribution trouble you?
That’s my question.
GALLOWAY: Well, Senator—
LEVIN: If you can’t give a short answer, just—
GALLOWAY: I’ll give as short as I can, and I appreciate your fairness in this.
Fundraising for political purposes is seldom pretty, as any American politician could testify.
I took the view — I can be criticized for it, have been criticized for it — that I would fundraise from the kings of Arabia whose political systems I have opposed all my life in order to raise funds for what I thought was an emergency, facing a disaster.
And I did not ask Mr. Zureikat which part of his profits from his entire business empire he was making donations to our —
LEVIN: That wasn’t my question. My question was, Would it trouble you if you found that out?
It’s okay. You’re not going to answer.
I want to go to my next question.
You’re simply not going to answer.
I will say, American politicians who find the source of money after it’s given to them is troubling — they find out something they didn’t know afterwards — frequently will — and hopefully, I think always — at least frequently will return that money, will say they disagree with the source of the money.
Hopefully all of us will do that.
But whether or not we all live up to that standard, you clearly do not adopt that as a standard for contributions to Mariam’s Appeal.
You’re not going to look at the source of the money; you’re just simply going to accept the money, and you’ve made that clear.
I wanted just to ask you about Tariq Aziz.
British MP George Galloway (C) departs after appearing before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, May 17, 2005.
LEVIN: Tariq Aziz.
You’ve indicated you, you — who you didn’t talk to and who you did talk to.
Did you have conversations with Tariq Aziz about the award of oil allocations?
That’s my question.
LEVIN: Thank you. I’m done. Thank you.
COLEMAN: Just one follow-up on the Tariq Aziz question.
How often did you uh ... Can you describe the relation with Tariq Aziz?
COLEMAN: How often did you meet him?
GALLOWAY: Many times.
COLEMAN: Can you give an estimate of that?
GALLOWAY: No. Many times.
COLEMAN: Is it more than five?
GALLOWAY: Yes, sir.
COLEMAN: More than ten?
COLEMAN: Fifteen? Around fifteen?
GALLOWAY: Well, we’re getting nearer, but I haven’t counted.
|'Street fighter' George Galloway turned the tables on his accusers at a US hearing into charges he received kickbacks from
Saddam Hussein, newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic said.|
But many times.
I’m saying to you "Many times," and I’m saying to you that I was friendly with him.
COLEMAN: And you describe him as "a very dear friend"?
GALLOWAY: I think you’ve quoted me as saying "a dear, dear friend." I don’t often use the double adjective, but—
COLEMAN: —I was looking into your heart on that. —
GALLOWAY: —but "friend" I have no problem with.
Senator, just before you go on — I do hope that you’ll avail yourself of this dossier that I have produced.
And I am really speaking through you to Senator Levin.
This is what I have said about Saddam Hussein.
COLEMAN: Well, we’ll enter that into the record without objection.
I have no further questions of the witness.
You’re excused, Mr. Galloway.
GALLOWAY: Thank you very much.