BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Where's the Money, Lebowski?

"Where's the money, Lebowski?!"

Somewhere in the Middle East.

A lotta stuff to dig through today.

U.S. was big spender in days before Iraq handover

A follow up to yesterday's post:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States handed out nearly $20 billion of Iraq's funds, with a rush to spend billions in the final days before transferring power to the Iraqis nearly a year ago, a report said on Tuesday.

A report by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California, said in the week before the hand-over on June 28, 2004, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority ordered the urgent delivery of more than $4 billion in Iraqi funds from the U.S. Federal Reserve in New York.

One single shipment amounted to $2.4 billion -- the largest movement of cash in the bank's history, said Waxman.

Most of these funds came from frozen and seized assets and from the Development Fund for Iraq, which succeeded the U.N.'s oil-for-food program. After the U.S. invasion, the U.N. directed this money should be used by the CPA for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

CASH was loaded onto giant pallets for shipment by plane to Iraq, AND PAID OUT TO CONTRACTORS WHO CARRIED IT AWAY IN DUFFEL BAGS.

An audit by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said U.S. auditors could not account for nearly $8.8 billion in Iraqi funds and the United States had not provided adequate controls for this money.
Back to the duffel bag thing - and the missing cash.

This is old news.

I posted the following stuff - back in February.
WASHINGTON (AP) U.S. officials in postwar Iraq paid a contractor by stuffing $2 MILLION worth of crisp bills into his gunnysack and routinely made cash payments around Baghdad from a PICK-UP TRUCK, a former official with the U.S. occupation government says.

Because the country lacked a functioning banking system, contractors and Iraqi ministry officials were paid with bills taken from a basement vault in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces that served as headquarters for the Coalition Provisional Authority, former CPA official Frank Willis said.

Officials from the CPA, which ruled Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004, would count the money when it left the vault, but nobody kept track of the cash after that, Willis said.

''In sum: inexperienced officials, fear of decision-making, lack of communications, minimal security, no banks, and lots of money to spread around. This chaos I have referred to as a 'Wild West,''' Willis said in testimony he prepared to give Monday before a panel of Democratic senators who want to spotlight the waste of U.S. funds in Iraq.

Describing the transfer of $2 million to one contractor's gunnysack, Willis said: ''It was time for payment. We told them to come in and bring a bag.'' He said the money went to Custer Battles of Middletown, R.I., for providing airport security in Baghdad for civilian passengers.
"Custer Battles" is now under investigation for massive amounts of fraud - in Iraq.

Here.

Back to the issue at hand.

The CPA was dishing out an UNGODLY amount of cash in the period around the transfer of power. Dishing out cash to "contractors" (i.e. well connected companies to the US government) from the the back of a pick-up truck, keeping shoddy records, yada yada.

And now...8 to 9 BILLION DOLLARS is "unnacounted for."

Where did it go?

Yesterday, Rep. Chris Shays (REPUBLICAN - Conn) said, "Given my sense of human temptation, I suspect some of it was, frankly, taken."

Taken?

By...?

Another old post from this blog - and a wild story that first appeared in the LA Times:

Army ignored Broker on Arms Deal - US general supervised an Iraq contract that a slain American said was tangled in kickbacks

This is the story of Dale Stoffel, an American "defense contractor" who was gunned down in Baghdad AFTER he complained to US & Iraqi offcials about the 27 MILLION BUCKS the Iraqis owed him for "services rendered."
The U.S. contractor working on (a defense project) repeatedly warned the task force headed by Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus that a Lebanese middleman involved in the deal might be routing kickbacks to Iraqi Defense Ministry officials.

But senior U.S. military officials did not act on the contractor's pleas for tighter financial controls, according to documents and interviews.

"If we proceed down the road we are currently on, there will be serious legal issues that will land us all in jail," the contractor, Dale Stoffel, wrote in a Nov. 30 e-mail to a senior assistant to Petraeus.

Eight days later, Stoffel was shot dead in an ambush near Baghdad. The killing is being investigated by the FBI, according to people who have been interviewed by the bureau.
Again, the dude was hired by the interim Iraqi government and the Iraqi Defense Ministry to "to refurbish Iraq's tanks and personnel carriers and buy new equipment from Eastern European sources." Dude eventually billed the Iraqi to the tune 27 mil. The Iraqis then told Stoffel that the money would come to him via a Lebanese businessman , now identified as Raymond Zayna by the LA Times.

But...
The MONEY was never delivered to Stoffel, who in October began complaining to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad. He wrote letters, previously disclosed by The Times, to Sen. Rick SANTORUM (R-Pa.) and a senior Pentagon official spelling out his suspicions about Zayna.

Stoffel also e-mailed U.S. Army Col. David Styles, Petraeus' assistant on the project. He asked Styles to have Petraeus intervene to stop millions of dollars being funneled without oversight through Zayna.
"There is no oversight of the money and if/when something goes wrong, regardless of how clean our hands are, heads will roll and it will be the heads of those that are reachable, and the people who are suppose to know better (US citizens, military, etc.)," Stoffel wrote in the November e-mail to Styles.

*

By late November, Stoffel had returned to the United States to seek help in getting his payment. He asked Pentagon officials and Santorum's office to pressure the Iraqis to release the $24.7 million to him.

Stoffel suggested that an international accounting firm be brought in to supervise the contract's financial transactions and clear up questions about the missing money.

He warned of consequences if the money was not recovered.

"News of it will be on the front page under the photos of President Bush, [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld, me" and Petraeus' task force, Stoffel wrote to another military officer in early December. "Jobs will be lost and congressional hearings will be held."
If you and I were writing a bad script about war and war profiteering, that scene would be followed by a bit where a bunch of nefarious characters plot Stoffel's death.

CUT TO:

INT. MYSTERIOUS OFFICE - NIGHT
An unidentified MAN with reads Stoffel's letter to a smoky room filled with unidentified characters. Then...

MAN - Our...friend...is threatening to go public.

MAN #2 - Dees...ees no good.

MAN #3 - Something...must be done.

Another unidentified MAN picks up a cell phone...

KnowwhatImsaying??
U.S. military officials informed Zayna about the allegations of corruption, according to several people familiar with the matter. British Brig. Gen. David Clements summoned the parties to a Dec. 5 meeting in Iraq. Afterward, Clements ordered Zayna to release the money to Stoffel, sources said.

As of Dec. 8, Stoffel still had not received the money. That day, after he left the Taji military base outside Baghdad, his SUV was rammed by another vehicle. Stoffel and a business associate, Joseph Wemple, were cut down in a hail of bullets.

Another occupant of the vehicle apparently escaped unharmed, leading to suspicions among the victims' friends that he may have been involved in the attack.

About a week later, a previously unknown insurgent group, Brigades of the Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility.
Brigades of the Islamic Jihad. Right.

Here's ANOTHER old post re: cash money, dead contractors and the conflict in Iraq:
"Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man - His fellow military contract worker pointed to kickback schemes -- and then was killed"
"Cliff Note" version: American defense contractors drum up some biz with the Iraqis, American defense contractors might have been privy to some shady deals, American defense contractors end up missing and dead.
Tikrit, Iraq -- In the midafternoon of Oct. 9, 2003, Kirk von Ackermann, an American contract worker from the Bay Area, used a satellite phone to call a colleague from a lonely desert road between Tikrit and Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He told his colleague he had a flat tire and needed a jack.

About 45 minutes later, the colleague found von Ackermann's car, abandoned. There was no sign of von Ackermann, who had been alone when he called. No hint of struggle, not even a footprint. All that remained was his satellite phone, his laptop computer, and, on the car's backseat a briefcase holding $40,000 in $100 bills.

"It was as if he had been abducted by aliens," Ryan Manelick told The Chronicle shortly after von Ackermann disappeared. Manelick was one of von Ackermann's colleagues at Ultra Services, a civilian contracting company they both worked for in Iraq, supplying U.S. military bases with tents, mobile homes, toilets, computers and Internet access.

Just over two months later, on the morning of Dec. 14, Manelick was shot dead near Camp Anaconda, a U.S. military base about 50 miles north of Baghdad, and about 50 miles south of where von Ackermann had disappeared.
Again, von Ackermann missing, Manelick dead.
U.S. military officials looking into both cases will not comment on the progress, if any, of their investigations.

For the families of the two men, there is grief, frustration and anger. And there is also suspicion and paranoia -- and the belief that perhaps both men were eliminated because they knew too much.

*
On the same day Saddam Hussein was hauled out of his spider hole, Ryan Manelick was driving a 4x4 just south of Tikrit, near the Iraqi town of Balad, 10 miles from Camp Anaconda. A car pulled up alongside and someone inside opened fire with a machine gun. Manelick died instantly, a bullet through his brain. It was two days before his 31st birthday.

Later that week he was to fly home to Pennsylvania for a Christmas break with his family.
Manelick may have been a random victim of a vengeful Hussein supporter. Balad, a fiercely pro-Hussein town in the Sunni triangle, was the source of constant rocket and mortar attacks on Camp Anaconda.

But Manelick had said something startling THE NIGHT BEFORE HE WAS KILLED.

"I'm in fear of my life, you know," he said to a gathering at a Baghdad restaurant, at which a Chronicle reporter was present.

"It's not Iraqis I'm worried about, either," added Manelick. "IT'S PEOPLE FROM MY OWN COUNTRY."
His father, Greg Manelick, and a team of up to 20 investigators from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command have been trying to figure out ever since what Manelick meant.
What the hell is going on over there?!
According to Greg Manelick and other former associates, Ryan Manelick had earlier told Army investigators looking into von Ackermann's disappearance that large sums of money were being paid in KICKBACKS to a U.S. Army officer in Iraq in return for doling out lucrative contracts to another a business associate at Ultra Services.

Von Ackermann, who as a contract manager for Ultra Services spent a lot of time at various U.S. military bases in Iraq, knew all about it, did not approve and was about to blow the whistle to U.S. Army authorities, Ryan Manelick reportedly had maintained.

Manelick made that assertion to investigators, according to his father and former associates, shortly before his fateful last supper in Baghdad.
Wow.

Is this stuff related to all that missing cash?!

Your comments please...

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