BAGHDAD, Aug. 27 — Several federal agencies are investigating a widening network of criminal cases involving the purchase and delivery of billions of dollars of weapons, supplies and other matériel to Iraqi and American forces, according to American officials. The officials said it amounted to the largest ring of fraud and kickbacks uncovered in the conflict here.
Looks like they suspect a top aide to Gen. Petraeaus had her hand in the cookie jar.
But now, American officials said, part of the criminal investigation is focused on Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph, who reported directly to General Petraeus and worked closely with him in setting up the logistics operation for what were then the fledgling Iraqi security forces.
That operation moved everything from AK-47s, armored vehicles and plastic explosives to boots and Army uniforms, according to officials who were involved in it. Her former colleagues recall Colonel Selph as a courageous officer who was willing to take substantial personal risks to carry out her mission and was unfailingly loyal to General Petraeus and his directives to move quickly in setting up the logistics operation.
“She was kind of like the Pony Express of the Iraqi security forces,” said Victoria Wayne, who was then deputy director of logistics for the overall Iraqi reconstruction program.
She may be totally innocent, but the potential for graft in Iraq is certainly a temptation.
And, if you haven't read The Great Iraq Swindle from Rolling Stone (that I linked to in the middle of Saturday's post), please do so now. Here's a sample:
The administration also greenlighted brash, modern-day forty-niners like Scott Custer and Mike Battles, a pair of ex-Army officers and bottom-rank Republican pols (Battles had run for Congress in Rhode Island and had been a Fox News commentator) who had decided to form a security company called Custer Battles and make it big in Iraq. "Battles knew some people from his congressional run, and that's how they got there," says Alan Grayson, an attorney who led a whistle-blower lawsuit against the pair for defrauding the government.
Before coming to Iraq, Custer Battles hadn't done even a million dollars in business. The company's own Web site brags that Battles had to borrow cab fare from Jordan to Iraq and arrived in Baghdad with less than $500 in his pocket. But he had good timing, arriving just as a security contract for Baghdad International Airport was being "put up" for bid. The company site raves that Custer spent "three sleepless nights" penning an offer that impressed the CPA enough to hand the partners $2 million in cash, which Battles promptly stuffed into a duffel bag and drove to deposit in a Lebanese bank.
It's a long article, with literally dozens of examples. Every member of congress should be forced to read it before voting on the next Iraq funding bill.