Colorful Houston oilman Oscar Wyatt — who was once described as a businessman who would not be afraid of dealing with the Devil himself — was arrested yesterday morning in Houston and charged in New York with bribing Iraqi officials in a scheme to corrupt the United Nations oil-for-food program. Earlier posts on Mr. Wyatt’s connection to the scandal are here and here and a copy of the indictment — which is so poorly written as to be nearly incomprehensible — is here. Mr. Wyatt has been released after posting bail of $2.5 million.
The indictment against Mr. Wyatt is an expansion of another federal case that was brought in April against David B. Chalmers Jr., president of Houston-based Bay Oil USA Inc. The indictment against Mr. Wyatt also names two Swiss business executives — Cathy Miguel and Mohameed Saidji, who are accused of conspiring with Wyatt. Under the indictment, the 81 year old Mr. Wyatt faces a potential jail term of at least 60 years and the threat that the Justice Department will attempt to freeze a substantial amount of his assets.
Mr. Wyatt was a controversial supporter of Saddam Hussein and an acerbic critic of President George H.W. Bush’s decision to liberate Kuwait and invade Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The indictment alleges that Mr. Wyatt arranged for his first Iraqi oil as chairman of Coastal Corporation in 1996 under the U.N. Oil for Food Program, and that Mr. Wyatt allegedly arranged illegal payments over the next four years to front companies and bank accounts that Hussein controlled. In return for the alleged bribes, Mr. Wyatt, who was allegedly aided by the two Swiss businessmen, arranged to receive millions of barrels of oil from Iraq. Mr. Wyatt later engineered the sale of Coastal to El Paso Corporation in 2001.