Questions for Paul Volcker

Article excerpt

Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

New information about the business dealings of Paul Volcker, head of the independent inquiry into the U.N. Oil for Food Program, threatens to overshadow the findings in the panel's interim report, which is scheduled to be released early this month.

Mr. Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman, is an honorable man. But recently, Heritage Foundation scholar Nile Gardiner and Fox News Channel correspondent Jonathan Hunt have reported new information suggesting the Volcker probe could be sidetracked by questions about his personal and business relationships with potential targets of the investigation.

On Friday, Mr. Hunt reported that Mr. Volcker is a close friend and paid adviser to billionaire Paul Desmarais Sr., who owns the Power Corp. of Canada. Power Corp. shares control of a holding company that is the largest single shareholder of the multinational energy firm Total, which received $1.75 billion worth of oil from Iraq. Total was in discussions with Saddam Hussein to develop oil fields in Iraq if sanctions were lifted (which would have made them worth billions of dollars more). Mr. Demarais' son is currently a director of Total.

Mr. Gardiner observes that when Mr. Volcker was appointed to head the Oil for Food investigation, it was not well known that he was a director of the U.N. Association of the United States of America. But Mr. Volcker did not mention this affiliation in his biography which appears on the Independent Inquiry's Web site - even though he noted his affiliation with other institutions such as the Trilateral Commission.

It would be difficult to imagine a more challenging task than the job of the UNA-USA: portraying the United Nations in a favorable light to the American public in spite of the Oil for Food scandal and other myriad problems at the United Nations. …