Iraq dealings still plaguing oilman Wyatt
By Alexander Besant - Hearst Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — An attorney for Texas oil mogul Oscar Wyatt said Friday that a pending lawsuit accusing Wyatt of indirectly funding Hamas terrorists could have wide-ranging ramifications for the U.S. oil industry.
Wyatt, who was released from prison last year after serving a year for his role in an oil-for-food scandal that rocked the United Nations, now is facing a lawsuit from more than 50 Israeli citizens. They claim that bribes Wyatt paid to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s government make him liable for the deaths or injuries of their family members who fell victim to Hamas suicide bombings.
“If buying oil from Iraq makes you an accomplice in terrorism, then we’re all in a world of hurt,” said Carl Parker of Port Arthur, Wyatt’s lawyer, who for many years was a state senator.
“If my clients are stuck, then all oil companies in the United States are stuck,” Parker said.
The case was moved this week from U.S. District Court in Washington to Houston, where the transactions took place.
The case is being brought against Wyatt under the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, which allows foreign citizens to have their cases heard in U.S. courts.
The plaintiffs are asking for $1 billion in damages from Wyatt and his company, NuCoastal Corp., claiming he was aware such money was used as a “financial reward and incitement program which rewarded the families of martyrs and suicide bombers in an effort to incentivize acts of terrorism.”
Wyatt’s troubles with the law began in 2004, when he was named by the CIA for having been awarded vouchers by the Iraqi government to secure lucrative oil contracts.
In 2007, the Texas businessman pleaded guilty for paying kickbacks to Iraq under the oil-for-food program, which was shut down in 2003 after revelations of collusion between oil companies, U.N. officials and the Iraqi government came to light.