Korean to be tried separately in Iraq oil probe
NEW YORK, Mar 2 (Reuters) A federal judge has ordered a South Korean lobbyist who is accused in the United Nations' Iraqi oil-for-food scandal to be tried separately from other high-profile defendants in the case.
Tongsun Park, 70, will face trial alone even though he was added to an indictment that named defendants including Texas oil tycoon Oscar Wyatt, David Chalmers of Houston-based Bayoil Inc., and Ludmil Dionissiev, a Bulgarian oil trader living in Houston.
Park is the only defendant behind bars, having been denied bail for being considered a flight risk, and defense lawyers had expressed interest in a speedy trial due to his frail health.
Prosecutors did not oppose the defense request for a separate trial.
Park has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to launder money and lobby secretly on behalf of the former Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.
US District Judge Denny Chin also set a new trial date of November 13 for the other defendants, including Wyatt, 81, who is accused of paying millions in secret kickbacks to Iraq under the oil-for-food program.
Defence lawyers complained the United Nations and other public agencies were slow in responding to formal requests for information.
''The UN has not graced us with a response in any way,'' said Paul Shechtman, Chalmers' lawyer.
The UN oil-for-food program was set up in the 1990s to allow Iraq to sell oil to buy civilian goods for its people living under UN sanctions over the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
The program administered some 67 billion dollars worth of oil, and US and UN investigations have found that lobbyists, UN and Iraqi officials enriched themselves through kickbacks and bribery.
REUTERS DH RAI0735