Lawyers for Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. have filed a motion to dismiss criminal conspiracy charges against the longtime Houston oilman in connection with the United Nations’ Oil-for-Food scandal in which they contend that the federal charges are retaliation for his being “a persistent and vocal critic of U.S. policy.” A copy of the motion to dismiss is here, the table of contents of the memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss is here, and you may download a copy of the 88-page memorandum here. Previous posts on the federal investigation of Wyatt in connection with the Oil-for-Food scandal are here, here and here.
Mr. Wyatt was indicted in October, 2005 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 accuses Wyatt of conspiring with Chalmers and two Swiss business executives of paying millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq so that Wyatt’s companies could continue to sell Iraqi oil under the Oil-for-Food program. 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. Wyatt — who was arrested early in the morning of October 21 at his home in Houston — is currently free after pleading not guilty to the charges and posting bail of $2.5 million.
Wyatt’s memorandum asserts that he has been singled out by the federal governement for prosecution even though a special U.N. panel led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker found that a large class of similarly-situated people and more than 2,000 companies had paid surcharges to the Iraqi government under the program, but had not been subjected to prosecution. Wyatt — who has been a frequent and harsh critic of both Bush Administrations and the government’s Middle East policies — contends that the prosecution is punishment for Wyatt’s outspoken views:
Here the government has singled out Wyatt for prosecution as a persistent and vocal critic of U.S. policy and support for commerce with Iraq, . . [. . .]
The government is now seizing its opportunity to silence Wyatt and vindictively punish him for his expression of these views. In a classic case of selective and discriminatory prosecution, the government has chosen to select only the most outspoken of its critics for prosecution for regulatory violations of the very embargo he strenuously has criticized.
Wyatt’s memorandum goes on to argue that companies that paid the surcharges may have violated international norms, but they did not obtain or divert money or property from those whom the government has identified as the alleged victims.
The memorandum also alleges that five government agents and two uniformed police officers arrested Wyatt at his home at 6:13 a.m. on Oct. 21, and that one of the agents injured Wyatt’s shoulder when he forced him against the wall and handcuffed him when Wyatt allegedly did not raise his hands quick enough.
Interestingly, in another development in the case, the Court recently granted Wyatt’s request — over the governmetn’s objection — to depose prominent Houston heart surgeon Michael DeBakey as a character witness for Wyatt. Dr. DeBakey, who is in his mid-90’s and is a remarkable physical specimen, has recently been battling an illness that has reportedly left him near death.