British MP Denies US Oil-For-Food Allegations

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

London ( -- A controversial British legislator challenged U.S. senators to charge him with perjury Tuesday after a Senate subcommittee accused him of lying under oath.

George Galloway, member of Parliament for a district in east London, said he was prepared to immediately travel to Washington to defend himself against the allegations, which involve links to Saddam Hussein's former regime and business dealings under the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq.

The chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), said Monday that Galloway "gave false and misleading testimony" during the British M.P.'s appearance at a hearing in May.

At that earlier hearing, Galloway denied that he had any oil dealings in Iraq at a time when he was running a charity providing medical care for children.

However, the subcommittee's latest report said that new evidence revealed that Galloway was granted oil allocations totaling 23 million barrels from Saddam Hussein's government from 1999 through 2003, and that the British lawmaker's estranged wife received $150,000 in connection with an oil allocation.

The report also alleged that his charity, the Mariam Appeal, received at least $446,000 under the oil-for-food program and that illegal payments of more than of $1.6 million were sent to the Hussein regime in connection with oil allocations.

"The additional evidence gathered by the subcommittee links George Galloway to the Iraqi regime's scheme to manipulate the U.N. oil-for-food program," Coleman said.

The committee cited interviews with "high-level members of the Hussein regime," including former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, testimony from oil traders and bank records.

Coleman said he would discuss the new evidence with the subcommittee's minority leader, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). In a statement, Levin commended the report and noted that Galloway and his wife "declined to be interviewed by the subcommittee regarding the questions raised by the new evidence."

Galloway responded on Tuesday by challenging the senators to bring criminal charges against him.

"I am prepared to fly to the United States today if necessary to face such a charge, because it is simply false," he told BBC radio.

Galloway accused Coleman of conducting a "sneak attack" and failing to notify him of the release of the new evidence. He also said he had been estranged from his wife since May and has spent very little time with her in the past two years.

Galloway's spokesman Ron McKay, who himself was named in the report as handling some of the oil funds, issued a further denial.

"Our response is that this is a pack of lies and that there is no evidence that George Galloway received a penny or benefited in any way," he told Cybercast News Service by telephone.

McKay said he was checking his bank records but had no recollection of a payment of $15,666 that the committee said was made into his bank account in Scotland.

The subcommittee report and potential perjury charges are the latest controversy to hit the British MP.

An anti-war firebrand who used to represent a constituency in Scotland, Galloway was kicked out of the ruling Labor Party in 2003 over his opposition to Prime Minister Tony Blair's Iraq policies. He formed a left-wing party, Respect, and in a rough-and-tumble campaign won its first parliamentary seat in May's general election.

Earlier this year, Galloway won $3 million in a libel suit against the conservative Daily Telegraph newspaper. The paper, citing documents found in Baghdad following the collapse of the regime, alleged that Galloway and his charity profited from the oil-for-food program.

The case is currently being appealed by the paper. Similar articles published in the Christian Science Monitor were the subject of a settlement and a printed retraction.

Galloway has compared the charges leveled by the Senate subcommittee to those published in the two newspapers, but committee members have denied that the claims are based on the same evidence.

His May testimony in front of the committee became the basis for a book, "Mr. Galloway Goes to Washington: the Brit who Set Congress Straight About Iraq."

See Earlier Story:

European Politicians Linked To Oil-For-Food Program (May 12, 2005)

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