NEW YORK (AP) – A Texas oil mogul and two Swiss business executives were charged Friday with paying millions in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime in the latest indictment to come out of the U.N. oil-for-food scandal.

Oscar S. Wyatt Jr., founder and former chairman of Coastal Corp., was arrested at his home in Houston. The U.S. government was seeking the extradition of oil traders Catalina del Socorro Miguel Fuentes and Mohammed Saidji from Switzerland.

Wyatt, 81, was freed after bail was set at $2.5 million on the federal charges.

The United Nations set up the oil-for-food program in the 1990s as part of an effort to punish Saddam’s regime without making the Iraqi people suffer. Iraq was allowed to sell its crude oil, but the proceeds were supposed to go toward food and other humanitarian aid for the Iraqis.

The program was found to be rife with corruption. Authorities said Saddam began insisting that those he dealt with pay kickbacks. Investigators suspect Saddam’s regime pocketed $10.2 billion in payoffs and other illegal oil sales.

In April, federal prosecutors charged two other Houston oilmen and a British citizen with taking part in the corruption.

If convicted of conspiracy and other charges, the three men named in the latest indictment could get 62 years in prison and a fine of $1 million, or twice the illicit gains they allegedly received.

Karl Parker, a lawyer for Wyatt, said the charges were motivated by Wyatt’s criticism of the last three presidential administrations.

On Thursday, Manhattan’s district attorney announced that a Virginia oil-trading company pleaded guilty to grand larceny in an oil-for-food program kickback scheme, and agreed to pay a $250,000 fine.

In January, an Iraqi-born American businessman accused of skimming oil-for-food money admitted to being an illegal agent of Saddam’s government.


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