Trials & Litigation

Politics on Trial Along With Oil Man

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The defense attorney for Texas oil man Oscar Wyatt argued yesterday that the federal prosecution of his client for paying kickbacks to buy Iraqi oil is “the United States at its hypocritical worst.”

Gerald Shargel told Manhattan jurors that his 83-year-old client had long helped the United States in the Middle East but did not get along with both President Bush and his father because he opposed their Iraq policies, the New York Law Journal reports.

Wyatt was a patriot and a lifelong Democrat who had advised presidents from both parties and passed along information about Middle East politics to a U.S. agency, Shargel said.

“His heart was an American heart, his loyalty was to the United States and his patriotism was unwavering,” Shargel said. The lawyer is best known for defending alleged mobsters, including the late John Gotti, the Wall Street Journal reported in a preview of the trial (sub. req.).

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Miller told jurors the case was simple: “Oscar Wyatt and his partners made illegal payments to get oil contracts” from Iraq in a United Nations oil-for-food program.

The Wyatt prosecution is the largest in a series of oil-for-food indictments brought by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Wyatt is accused of making at least $3.9 million in secret payments to Iraq. He is charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and paying illegal surcharges. Proceeds from oil sales with the country were supposed to be deposited in a U.N. escrow account.

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