Updated: 5/16/2006; 11:46:16 AM.

Ken Novak's Weblog
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daily link  Sunday, May 30, 2004

Counterfeit trail led to Chalabi: "The coalition's decision to introduce a new Iraqi currency could scarcely have been avoided. No one wanted banknotes bearing the face of Saddam Hussein. Yet the operation to exchange and destroy countless old Iraqi dinars was an invitation to fraud.  The way judge Zuhair Maleki related the story last week, a routine investigation into a giant currency fiddle eventually led to a heavily guarded Baghdad compound belonging to Ahmad Chalabi..  Maleki was in charge of a curious case involving one of Chalabi's minions. Sabah Nouri, described by Maleki as a "former driver and smuggler with no qualifications", had been appointed to head an audit committee at the Iraqi finance ministry, which fell under Chalabi's council wing.  When evidence emerged that old dinars sent for burning were being switched with counterfeit bills and that the genuine dinars were being represented in exchange for more dollars Nouri apparently set off in hot pursuit of culprits. ..

When Maleki followed up complaints that the bank tellers had been kidnapped, the scam began to unravel. After weeks of further investigation, the judge concluded that Nouri and other Chalabi aides had in fact been running the counterfeit currency switch. When 15 arrest warrants were issued, the most prominent name on the list was Aras Habib, Chalabi's security chief, who is now in hiding. The charges included murder, kidnapping, fraud, forgery, extortion and stealing government property.

On Saturday, two of the judge's bodyguards were wounded in an attempt to shoot him at a petrol station. "Twice a pistol was pointed at me and twice my bodyguards hurled themselves at me to protect me," said the 38-year-old judge, who escaped with nothing worse than a broken tooth. He declined to speculate on the reason for the attack. ..

weapons inspectors had long been doubtful of the INC's intelligence... "The information provided by Chalabi was so specific it appeared to be very credible," said Joseph Cirincione, author of a WMD report for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  "He would tell people, 'You go to this facility, and in the third building, first corridor, second door, there's a refrigerator with anthrax in it.' Well, inspectors went to those facilities, and there wasn't even a third building, or a corridor, or a door."

Cirincione and others believe there were compelling reasons for Bush administration officials not to believe it. The return of UN inspectors to Iraq in late 2002 provided ample evidence that defectors introduced by the INC had consistently lied about or exaggerated what they claimed to have seen. "

  10:11:04 AM  permalink  

Down on Chalabi: "One diplomat from the region grimly cited an old Punjabi saying: "It's very bad when grandma marries a crook, but it is even worse when she divorces the crook.'

Chalabi's wealthy family was swept out of Iraq in a coup in 1958, and he spent much of his life plotting a coup to take back his homeland, a far-fetched scheme that took on life when he hooked up with Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Doug Feith, who had their own dream of staging a coup of American foreign policy to do an extreme Middle East makeover.

The hawks dismissed warnings from their own people like the Bush Middle East envoy Gen. Anthony Zinni that the Iraqi National Congress was full of "silk-suited, Rolex-wearing guys in London.' As Zinni told The New York Times in 2000: "They are pie in the sky. They're going to lead us to a Bay of Goats, or something like that.'"

  9:43:39 AM  permalink  


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Last update: 5/16/2006; 11:46:16 AM.