LI has often enough expressed contempt for the most prominent of the press�s hawks, C. Hitchens. But for another hawk, Nik Cohen, who was, if anything, more vituperative than Hitchens, we have a certain undiminished admiration. Cohen�s fierce hatred of Saddam Hussein was not corrupted by any cozying up to the rightwing powers that be, whether operating under Blair or Bush,

Cohen has penned an astonishingly good article in today�s Guardian about a man we have mentioned before: Nadhmi Auchi. Cohen takes a hard look at the sleeze magnetism of the man � both Tory and Labor went out of their way to protect the guy. He bought a lot of politicians, a lot of ex politicians, and established himself like a tick under the skin of the body politic:

Perhaps you would, but I forgot to add a final fact about Mr Auchi: he is the thirteenth-richest man in Britain, and he has been able to collect British politicians the way other people collect stamps. After wrecking the economy, Norman Lamont retired from government to a seat on the board of the financial arm of General Mediterranean Holding, which runs Auchi's many businesses. Lord Steel, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats and the current presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, is also on the board. Lady Falkender, Harold Wilson's former secretary, has worked for Auchi, as has Gerald Malone, a former Tory Minister you've probably forgotten about. Keith Vaz, the former New Labour Foreign Office Minister once accepted a directorship from Auchi.

Auchi's political friendships extended far beyond the boardroom. There were indirect links to MI6, and he made a donation to a political party. (We don't know which one.) Many of the threads in his web of influence were on show when a touching scene was enacted on the evening of 23 April 1999. Lord Sainsbury joined 600 guests in the Grand Ballroom of the Park Lane Hotel. The Science Minister announced that he was deputising for the Prime Minister. To show the goodwill that politicians from all parties felt towards Auchi, he presented him with a print of the Houses of Parliament signed by Tony Blair, William Hague, Charles Kennedy and 132 other Ministers and backbenchers. "

Ah, sweet.
Here�s what we�ve been saying about the guy:
Apr 21, 09:04:48 AM | roger gathman | edit ]


Coups are expensive. As Jonathan Kwitney pointed out years ago, private enterprise and public governments often find pleasing compromises that allow them to go dutch on overturning third world governments and installing those pleasing puppets that age so badly in their baroque, disco palaces. It is a win win proposition - in the old days, you got staunch anti-communists, elected again and again by a wonderfully cooperative electorate, and you got sweet deals being cut that divvied up, in the most rational way, the natural resources to which the third world country was, by some mistake of providence, heir to.

One wonders how the INC in Iraq is being financed. We are suspicious that an exile Iraqi billionaire currently being held in an extradition trial in London, Nadhmi Auchi, might have some answers. The Observer has a wrap around bio of Auchi that reveals some interesting things. The man's main company is hq-ed in Luxemburg, natch: GenMed. We are being killed, in this century, by bland corporate acronyms. Auchi was connected, in some mysterious way, with the former meat machine tyrant of a Middle Eastern country -- guess which one. But Auchi claims, of course, that said Meat Machine turned against him and killed his brothers. However, Auchi, who turned up in Britain in the eighties, did not let family tragedy get in the way of peculative interests. He cut deals for Elf, and for other Euro petro companies, to get oil from Iraq -- and for himself he collected your average multi million dollar kickback. GenMed's main business, supposedly, is hospitality. In fact, Auchi's company just opened a swinging hot spot in Amman, Jordan. Auchi himself keeps to London. In his office hangs a painting of the House of Commons signed by such well wishers as Tony Blair. Blair's cabinet has a soft spot for the exiled Iraqi -- in fact, one sub minister was caught advising him on extradition matters vis a vis the French charge against him still on the docket there.

The Observer article doesn't touch on his connections with one Henry J. Leir. If you touch on that connection, you can get sued for libel, as Le Soir in Belgium found out. There is an article of mysterious provenance floating on the web none the less, in which it is claimed that Auchi was connected as an arms dealer with Leir. Leir, apparently, is golden: a major player in channeling enriched uranium to Israel -- again, for you libel lawyers out there, this is all wink wink. Leir endowed a chair at Tufts university in -- oh, spirit of the age -- peace, and seems to be an establishment figure in America -- but in Europe he has a different reputation. Denis Robert und Ernest Backes, two journalists, have written a book, Revelations, about the Leir/Auchi connection.�

We were interested in Cohen�s last graf:

�There is a rumour that MI6 liked to have him around because he understood the Iraqi regime. I can't substantiate it, and it may be nonsense. All I can do is point to a strange coincidence. Britain handed Auchi to France in the spring when the overthrow of Saddam's regime became inevitable and knowledge of that regime was no longer a unique selling point. The flight of Saddam should provide a happy ending of sorts, were it not for a small problem. When the Coalition handed out contracts to set-up mobile phone networks in liberated Iraq, one went to a firm called Orascom. And who's backing Orascom?�

So, we went looking for info about Orascom. Here�s a graf from a Time Magazine article, of Nov. 9:

�Now another deal is coming under scrutiny. A senior Pentagon official told Time that the U.S. is reviewing its decision to grant the mobile license for Baghdad and central Iraq to a consortium led by Egyptian telecom giant Orascom because of its ties to Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi-born billionaire who built his fortune partly through arms deals with the Iraqi regime in the 1980s. Industry sources say Auchi provided Orascom with a $20 million loan to help pay down its $500 million debt. The sources say the loan gave Auchi, who faced French prosecutors earlier this year for his role in a corruption and embezzlement scandal, a controlling stake in Orascom. A senior U.S. official says Orascom's ties to Auchi are being investigated. As a result, no mobile licenses have yet been issued. �

For more on Auchi, go to a French site �l�investigateur. It is an incomparable source for scuttlebutt.