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The Dale Stoffel mystery solved


Last January 22, I posed a question on this blog: Who killed Dale Stoffel?

Today—one year and one week later—I finally got something close to an answer. Deborah Hastings of the Associated Press has published a story that identifies, if not the actual trigger men, at least those who likely put the hit out on Stoffel: a shadowy Lebanese businessman named Raymond Zayna (a culprit suggested to me some time ago by a source close to Dale Stoffel) and Hazem Shaalan, the former Iraqi defense minister.

In essence, Stoffel was silenced because he'd started to kick up a fuss in Washington over millions of dollars of work that he and his business associates hadn't been paid for because of widespread corruption in the Iraqi ministry of defense. (An excellent article by Aram Roston in Washington Monthly last June adds much useful background to Hastings' story.)

But here's today's big shocker:

In May 2005, the Iraqi Supreme Board of Audit presented a confidential report on the Defense Ministry to new Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

It found that widespread fraud under Shaalan had resulted in the disappearance of virtually the entire $1.3 billion procurement budget. The report examined 89 contracts and found that all had been paid in full, via cash bank transfers, in advance of any work being done.

All were awarded to Iraqis acting as intermediaries, including Stoffel's contact, Zayna, and not to the suppliers themselves.

The finance minister called it "possibly one of the greatest thefts" in Iraqi history.

Under the Wye Oak-CLI contract, nearly $25 million had been deposited by Zayna in a Lebanese bank "contrary to general contracting provisions," the audit said.

In October, 27 arrest warrants were issued for Defense Ministry officials, including Shaalan. But by then, he had immunity from prosecution because he was a member of parliament.

He also had left the country. He lives in Britain and denies wrongdoing, though he acknowledges transferring $500 million in ministry funds to a Lebanese bank, to buy armored vehicles, he said. He ran for re-election in December and lost.

The last Bob Irey [Stoffel's business partner] heard of Zayna, the middleman remains in Iraq. He continues to bill the Defense Ministry for work done under the Taji contract.

The theft of $1.3 billion in U. S. funds, it seems to me, ought to be cause for banner headlines and congressional hearings. (And, if this piece by Ed Harriman in The London Review of Books has any validity, at least $12 billion earmarked for reconstruction in Iraq  can't be properly accounted for.)

From what I can tell, Ms. Hastings' story seems to have gotten buried by the comparatively few news outlets that bothered to carry it.

Let's hope the Stoffel saga doesn't end here.

Posted by Rodger on January 30, 2006 at 01:28 AM | Permalink


Wow! Thanks for closing the loop on this somewhat, Rodger. I suppose it's easy enough to pay for a professional hit when you've stolen a billion dollars. I hope this story gets some more exposure, even though it reflects poorly on our oversight of the "reconstruction" funding.

Posted by: Dan Wismar | Feb 4, 2006 12:58:07 AM

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