Canadian Corporate Elite?

Canadian Corporate Elite? Power Corp?

The Oil-for-Food Scandal – the Canadian Connection

Charles R. Smith – Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2005

“Its all about the oil” was the chant issued by a vast army of protesters around the world.

Yes, it may have been “all about the oil” – but it didn’t involve Americans, who did not own any of the oil in Iraq, but rather a horde of rich global fat cats who wanted to make millions in a so-called U.N. humanitarian program.

One of those who made out like a bandit is a rich Canadian whose bank made millions and whose Paris-based holding companies include the originally French-Belgian oil company TotalFina Elf, which cut lucrative deals with Saddam’s Iraq and is currently operating in war-torn Sudan. Various congressional committees have launched hearings into what has been described as the biggest corruption scandal in history. Not surprisingly, U.N. officials have refused to cooperate with the congressional investigations.

The investigations have turned up a number of damning facts that point directly to the incompetence at best, complicity at worst of the most senior U.N. officials and those involved.

It is now well known, for example, that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s own son was getting big cash payments from a Swiss firm that profited from the program, in return for his “expert” opinions and advice. Recently published evidence shows that Annan’s son was paraded as a high-level contact within the U.N.

The congressional investigations have surfaced preliminary accounting figures that show that Saddam Hussein likely siphoned off as much as $15 billion, almost a quarter of the entire funds transferred.

While the anti-U.S. critics wailed at the impact of the embargo on the Iraqi people, their attention miraculously centered on the nation that liberated the victims of Saddam’s original aggressions – and not on the Thug in Chief or his numerous continental ‘partners’.

Free to “govern,” Saddam did so with a vengeance, and the rest, as they say, is history – which, thankfully, Congress is now exposing after the U.S. military put an “Out of Business” sign on Baghdad.

Hussein was not alone in his corruption, and several others involved in the money flow, including government firms and politicians in Europe, are now nervously following the investigations while checking out one-way flights to Paraguay.

BNP Paribas

Top among these is the European-based BNP Paribas bank, which the U.N. chose to administer the program and which reportedly received nearly $1 billion for its efforts. Congressional investigators reviewing the bank’s actions have discovered broken rules, missing documents and improper transfers by BNP Paribas, which up until now has been assumed to be a French bank.

In fact, BNP Paribas is actually controlled by Power Corporation, an appropriately named Canadian company that has a shocking track record of ‘business’ relationships with the worst gangsters and tyrannical regimes in the world.

BNP Paribas also has one other distinguishing feature: a direct corporate and familial relationship with the persons running the government of Canada for the last 20 years.

The truth about BNP Paribas and Power Corp. sheds a new light on Canada’s seemingly bizarre anti-American foreign policy in the Middle East, in China and elsewhere.

BNP Paribas bank is part of a holding company, Pargesa Holding, which is jointly owned and controlled by the Frère and Desmarais families. Paul Desmarais Sr. is the chairman of the group, while Albert Frère is the vice-chairman. Gerald Frère, Albert’s son, is one of three general managers who oversee day-to-day operations, and Paul Desmarais Jr. is also an officer.

Pargesa, and thus Power Corporation and the Canadian Desmarais family, holds a controlling significant stake in TotalFina Elf, the Belgian-French petroleum multinational corporation formed from the merger of Total and Petrofina.

BNP Paribas and TotalFina may have blood-stained corporate histories, but the intimate and intricate connections of Power Corp. to Canada’s governing elite raise the truly disturbing questions.

Power Corporation CEO Andre Desmarais is the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who went out of his way to oppose U.S. intervention in Iraq, where the family’s business interests with the Saddam regime would be jeopardized.

Current Canadian PM Paul Martin is a former Power Corporation employee who made his fortune when he bought Canada Steamship Lines from Power Corp. aided by loans from Power Corp. To this day both CSL and Power are reported to have mutual equity interests in each other.

The most senior foreign affairs/international trade adviser to current Canadian PM Paul Martin is Maurice Strong, former CEO of Power Corp. and a longtime U.N. and Kofi Annan adviser.

TotalFina Elf

So, who is TotalFina Elf? Just an oil company that cut a deal with Saddam to develop and exploit the Majnoon and Nahr Umar oil fields in southern Iraq. These properties are estimated to contain as much as 25 percent of the country’s oil reserves.

With Saddam under arrest, the Canadian-controlled company has expanded its “client base” and now has a deal with the murderous Sudanese regime to quietly extract its oil and funnel profits back to Khartoum for its infamous social programs.

Disgusted by the lethargic pace and willful blindness of the U.N.-led investigation of itself headed up by Paul Volcker, the U.S. Congress opened its own investigation. Committee investigators found that eight government agencies notified BNP Paribas about “deficiencies” in handling money in the U.N. program.

No wonder Congress smelled a rat when it watched the deliberately ineffectual U.N. ‘review’ of the ‘Food-for-Oil’ program. Thankfully, it followed up on that and launched its own investigations which, if allowed to follow their natural course, will inevitably expose fraud, corruption, sleaze, theft, incompetence and, perhaps in the long run most significantly, the corrupt political and personal motivations of supposedly friendly governments, including Canada, in this entire mess.

For our Canadian friends and supposed partners, we are left with the disturbing question: Who’s really in charge and whose interests are they really serving?


It is likely to become the largest bribery and embezzlement scandal in world history.

But judging from the coverage given to it in the mainstream media and the insistence by Paul Martin’s Liberals that the investigation should not resonate, chances are you are in the dark as to what this multi-billion dollar fiasco is all about.

So far, says a U.S. Senate investigation – one of five under way across the globe – former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is alleged to have skimmed US$21.3 billion (C$27 billion) from a UN humanitarian-aid program – which allowed Iraq to sell oil while it was under sanctions between 1996 and 2003.

Connected to this massive corruption is Canadian serial entrepreneur Maurice Strong, our prime minister’s key advisor since the 1960s.

Strong, who has stepped aside pending the investigations broke United Nations rules by putting his stepdaughter on his diplomatic payroll, the UN says. She has also quit.

In addition Strong was linked to a South Korean lobbyist who is suspected of bribing UN officials with Iraqi money.

That lobbyist is South Korean businessman Tongsun Park who invested money in Cordex Petroleum, a Calgary oil company that was run by Strong’s son Frederick.

Cordex is partly owned by Paul Martin’s family company, The Canada Steamship Lines Group Inc. (Montreal, Canada).

As the investigation grows, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, a huge Martin fan, is also trying hard to stop the fingers pointing directly at him.

His son Benon Sevan, was in charge of the UN Oil for Food program, the humanitarian effort at the scandal’s center and there are allegations that he was on the take.

Canadians known for their international humanitarian efforts are strangely silent as this corruption scandal unfolds.

When questions were raised in Parliament about the Canadian role in the scandal, the Liberal government’s response was that Strong has denied the allegations and that they should not resonate across this country.

“I can tell you that Mr. Strong has absolutely denied these allegations and this country should be very proud of the role Mr. Maurice strong has played over the years working systematically for making progress at the United Nations institutions.”

So why do the Liberals, who are fighting tooth and nail to cling to power over the Adscam scandal, not want this UN corruption case to resonate across Canada?

Maybe it is because the key actors in this movie are all buddies.

After Paul Martin graduated from the University of Toronto law school, it was Maurice Strong, who was then president of Power Corp. who hired him as a special assistant.

In 1969, Martin became a Power Corp. Vice President and five years later the Prime Minister was appointed chairman and CEO of Canada Steamship Lines (CSL), owned by Power Corp.

Power Corp. one of Canada’s largest corporate giants controls the European-based BNP Paribas bank, which the U.N. chose to administer the food for oil program and which reportedly received nearly US$1 billion (C$1.2 billion) for its efforts.

Now it has become known that the man appointed to get to the bottom of this corruption is Paul Volcker, who was a one-time director of Power Corp. run by Paul Desmarais.

Paul Martin, as finance minister while this fiasco was taking place, worked under Jean Chretien whose daughter France is married to Desmarais’ son, Andre Desmarais.

It is no wonder that Paul Martin’s Liberals want to keep a lid on the U.N. scandal in Canada because there are strong ties that bind them to this unprecedented dishonesty.

The Asian Pacific Post –

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