Sound and fury, signifying nothing?

Lots of coverage out there of George Galloway’s appearance in front of the US Senate subcommittee hearing on the Oil-for-Food program yesterday.. instant reaction at the Guardian, and elsewhere, was sympathetic to Galloway. Instapundit Glenn Reynolds pointed to a live-blogging of events as they unfolded. And has more links today. Galloway certainly adopted his usual “attack is the best form of defence” defence.. but was challenged himself on several points. John Fay at Irish Eagle called it within minutes. Today the Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill, with a crass allusion in the headline, outlines the conspiracy theory – “No new revelations – but do not expect the controversy to go away”. He does, however, correctly identify “the crux of the allegations: the relationship between Mr Galloway and Mr Zureikat”, via the Mariam Appeal that Galloway founded in 1998, but, in relation to the lack of a paper trail, fails to note what the Charity Commission pointed out in a press release yesterday – “By 2003, the [Mariam] Appeal had been closed and the books and records had been sent to Jordan in 2001 where the then Chairman of the Appeal, Mr Fawaz Zuriekat resided; the Commission was therefore unable to review them.” Update The BBC reports that the Charity Commission has said it will contact the US Senate committee.That Charity Commission’s press release in full –

Tuesday 17 May 2005 20:26
Charity Commission Statement in response to George Galloway’s evidence to US Senate Sub-Committee 17 May 05

Charity Commission Statement in response to George Galloway’s evidence to US Senate Sub-Committee 17 May 05

Although we have not yet seen a transcript of Mr Galloway’s evidence to the US Senate Sub-Committee today, we understand that his comments included the following:

1) The Mariam Appeal, founded by Mr Galloway, was subject to a Charity Commission investigation in which all money in and all money out of the Mariam account was looked at and no impropriety was found.

2) The Charity Commission investigation into the Mariam Appeal found no donation from any oil company.

The Charity Commission would like to restate a number of points of fact regarding its inquiry.

The Mariam Appeal was established in 1998. The Charity Commission opened an investigation into the Appeal in 2003, after we received a complaint that was presented to the Attorney General in response to a newspaper article.

By 2003, the Appeal had been closed and the books and records had been sent to Jordan in 2001 where the then Chairman of the Appeal, Mr Fawaz Zuriekat resided; the Commission was therefore unable to review them. Our inquiry therefore had to rely on details we were able to obtain from the Appeal’s bank accounts.

The Appeal did not produce annual income and expenditure accounts or balance sheets.

While we were able to review income and expenditure from the bank statements of the Appeal, which we had to obtain using our legal powers direct from banks, we were not able to verify all aspects of expenditure because of the lack of proper documentation. However, we found no evidence that the funds of the Appeal were misapplied (other than the payment of some unauthorised benefits to trustees which were made in good faith).

We did not undertake a detailed review of sources of income to the Appeal because the original concern prompting our inquiry was about the use to which funds had been put. Our inquiry did not find evidence of donations direct from oil companies but noted that one of the major funders of the Appeal was Fawaz Zuriekat, an individual named on 12 May 2005 by the US Senate Sub-Committee as allegedly connected with payments in relation to allocations of oil under the Iraq Oil for Food Programme. We have no evidence to show that the income received by the Fund from Mr Zuriekat came from an improper source. But had the recent allegations been known to us at the time of our inquiry, we would have made the information available to the appropriate UK authorities for them to decide whether the Mariam Appeal had received funds from an illegal source.