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Russia Accused of $500 Million Oil-for-Food Fraud

tretyakov012608.jpgThis weekend the Globe and Mail is reporting on accusations by the former Russian spy Sergei Tretyakov, who claims that he assisted other UN agents in helping Russia steal $500 million from the UN’s oil-for-food program in Iraq. Describing the Russian delegation to the UN, Tretyakov described it as a “nest of spies” and a fertile ground for recruiting international experts to share damaging information about the United States – including one Canadian nuclear specialist. He stated in the interview: “I got extremely disgusted with the Russian government, and I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not very emotional. I’m not a Boy Scout. (…) Knowing people who are running Russia, I started feeling that it’s immoral to help them. And finally in my life, when I defected, I did something good in my life. Because I want to help United States.” This nobility might be very well and good, but with regard to the UN fraud, we aren’t dealing with black-and-white moral absolutism, but rather entrepreneurial thievery. Wasn’t it Cherkesov’s challenge to the siloviki that “We must not allow warriors to turn into traders“? His story is dramatic indeed – almost like an espionage novel. Oh wait, there is actually a book being pitched at the same time: “Comrade J.: The Untold Secrets of Russia’s Master Spy in America after the End of the Cold War” by former Washington Post journalist Pete Earley. The obvious problem with the dirt being dished by Tretyakov is determining how much is true and how much is exaggerated to sell exciting books – though from my experience, I am inclined to believe that a former spy of his stature would see no need to exaggerate.