U.S. top court rejects Iraq bid to revive 'oil-for-food' lawsuit

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 15, 2015 9:49 AM

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an effort by Iraq to revive a lawsuit against dozens of companies for allegedly conspiring with former leader Saddam Hussein's government to subvert the U.N. oil-for-food program and deprive Iraqi citizens of humanitarian aid.

The high court left intact a September 2014 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Iraq's current government could not recoup damages under a U.S. anti-racketeering law over Hussein's effort to defraud the U.N. program. Hussein was removed from power during a 2003 U.S.-led invasion and executed in 2006.

More than 80 companies, subsidiaries and affiliates were named as defendants in the 2008 lawsuit over the $64.2 billion oil-for-food program, which ran from 1996 to 2003 and was designed to help ordinary Iraqis hurt by international economic sanctions against Hussein's government.

Among the defendants were the French bank BNP Paribas SA, which oversaw a U.N. escrow account for the program; Swiss engineering company ABB Ltd; U.S. oil company Chevron Corp; British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc and German electronics company Siemens AG.

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A scathing 2005 U.N. report on the oil-for-food program, issued by a panel led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, linked oil surcharges to contracts of 139 companies and humanitarian kickbacks to contracts of 2,253 companies.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)