'The Maustro' admits connection to `Koreagate Man'
by Judi McLeod, Editor,
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Kofi Annan’s special envoy to Korea Maurice Strong admits he knows "Koreagate Man" Tongsun Park and even that Park invested in an "energy company" with which he was associated in 1997--but flatly denies any involvement in the scandal-ridden UN oil-for-food program.
U.S. federal prosecutors are on the hunt for Park, who was charged on Thursday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with allegedly accepting million of dollars from the Iraqi government while operating in the U.S. as an unregistered agent for Baghdad.
"Park was accused of telling a cooperating government witness in 1995 that he needed $10 million from Iraq to "take care" of his expenses and his people (DOW JONES NEWSWIRE). "The witness believed that that meant a person identified in court papers only as `U.N. Official No. 1."
Strong, got his start in the world of business by Paul Desmarais’ Montreal-based Power Corporation. Desmarais is a key figure in Paribas BNP, Saddam’s favourite bank, officials of which are said to be "cooperating with investigators" in the oil-for-food probe.
Strong also happens to be a power behind the throne in Canadian politics as senior advisor to adscam, scandal-plagued Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin--also launched into the business world by Power Corp.
As Kofi Annan’s special envoy to Korea, Strong returns from his Korean trips to openly criticize the U.S. Strong told CBS’s Dan Rather on May 26, 2004: "The single most important thing that comes out of my discussions there is the strong conviction that the country is threatened by the United States. They contend that this is the reason, and the only reason, that they require nuclear weapons."
Now that Strong’s association with "Koreagate man" Park Tong-sun is out in the open, speculation about further oil-for-food players is the talk around UN water coolers.
Not lost on many is that Strong was handpicked by Annan for UN reform long before oil-for-food investigations got underway.
In denying involvement in the oil-for-food program, Strong said, "Indeed, I cannot recall a single instance in which I had any contact or discussion on the program with any of the officials responsible."
Park, who starred in the "Koreagate" influence peddling scandal in the 1970s, is back for Act 11.
"The businessman once dubbed the "Onassis of the Orient" is accused of
lobbying in the U.S. without registering as a lobbyist, which carries (a penalty) of up to five years in jail and US$250,000 in fines." (www.chosun.com
"Federal prosecutors in New York said Thursday that Park took US$2 million from Saddam Hussein’s regime to lobby for Iraq, which was under economic sanctions, to be allowed to sell some of its oil abroad under the U.N. "oil-for-food" program.
Park received money sent through the residence of the Iraqi U.N. delegation in New York, most of it in cash. Prosecutors presume that at least some of it was used to bribe a high-ranking U.N. official. Three employees of the Houston, Texas oil company Bayoil USA were also booked for providing kickbacks to the Iraqi government in connection with the oil-for-food program.
In the "Koreagate" scandal of the 1970s, Park paid millions of dollars in campaign contributions and bribes to U.S. politicians, causing schockwaves to reverberate, not just within the U.S., but also in the dicey Korea-U.S. relationship.
The irony of the man who turned the U.S. political scene on its head in 1976 returning 30 years later, only this time coming under investigation by federal prosecutors, was pointed out by the Korean mainline media.
Said to be living in Seoul, Park visits Washington twice a year, according to Kang Eun-cheol, who helped Park in Washington. Park’s most recent trip was only last December.
While on American soil, the "Onassis of the Orient" is hardly the Invisible Man. When in Washington, the high-flying Park hosts friends at the toney Georgetown Club.
Described as a big-talking braggart, Park recently told Korean reporters he was involved in a number of implausible projects, including a Russian energy project, the expansion of the Panama Canal, cleaning up Chernobyl and a Taiwanese submarine building project.
Meanwhile, there seem to be bigger fish to be caught if U.S. federal prosecutors only spread their net.