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Even Pardoned Fugitives Need Watching
Most people, if in need of such an item, would be grateful to receive a "get out of jail free" card, even if they were ensconced in a Swiss chateau instead of a much deserved prison cell. It might even be reasonable to presume that a wanted fugitive who received a Presidential pardon would, at a minimum, refrain from continuing the sort of criminal conduct that resulted in their fleeing the country.

Unfortunately, pardoned billionaire Marc Rich does not appear to have taken the opportunity to pursue a law-abiding life. Instead, according to a report in The New York Post, Mr. Rich "is a primary target of criminal probes under way in the U.S. attorney's office in New York" and by well known watchdog, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. The news account states that Mr. Rich "has emerged as a central figure in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal and is under investigation for brokering deals in which scores of international politicians and businessmen cashed in on sweetheart oil deals with Saddam Hussein..."

The issue under federal inquiry concerns "hundreds of international political and financial figures from France, Russia and other countries" that were "awarded middleman vouchers allowing them to purchase set quantities of Iraqi oil at discount rates. These so-called ‘non-end users' could then resell the oil on the open market and make profits of up to 50 cents a barrel." Mr. Rich and a partner apparently "put together deals between Saddam and his international supporters in the controversial oil-voucher scheme..." The brokerage deals allowed the pair to "pocket percentages of the profits, worth hundreds of millions of dollars..."

The newspaper reports that of "particular interest to investigators is a series of deals outlined in recently released Iraqi Oil Ministry documents that show allocations of more than 72 million barrels of oil to a French oil trader..." The trader in question "is a longtime business associate of Rich" and "has also been identified as a close friend of French President Jacques Chirac."

Furthermore, according to the article, "Investigators are also looking at Rich's fingerprints on several oil deals involving Russian political figures and businessmen. Rich has longstanding ties in Russia and has done several questionable commodities deals with Russian mafia figures and oligarchs, who seized control of vast Russian financial and natural resources after the collapse of the Soviet Union..."

Pardons are retrospective, they can only grant absolution for crimes that have taken place in the past. In Mr. Rich's case, it seems that the "current grand-jury probes taking place in New York focus on Rich's oil deals with Saddam that took place after his pardon, which could make him fair game for a new round of indictments."

Winston recognizes that an essential tenet of the American system of justice is that everyone is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. With this principle in mind, Winston would like to personally invite Mr. Rich back to the United States so that he can provide his side of the story. As an added inducement, Winston promises to print Mr. Rich's unedited views in this column, after he arrives back on American soil.

  • Click to read New York Post article.

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