U.S. News

Tycoon Wyatt wants Saddam link omitted from trial

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer for Oscar Wyatt has asked a judge to exclude evidence from his upcoming trial that suggests a link between the Texas oil tycoon and Saddam Hussein and a tip to Iraq about the U.S. invasion.

The motion, filed in Manhattan federal court on Monday, comes three weeks before Wyatt, former chairman and founder of Coastal Corp., goes on trial accused of paying secret kickbacks to Iraq and corrupting the U.N. oil-for-food program.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to pay several million dollars in kickbacks to Iraq in relation to the corrupted $67 billion program.

The motion seeks to remove prosecutors’ evidence that suggests payments made by Wyatt to Iraq’s state oil marketing organization were passed straight on to Saddam, arguing it would prejudice the jury.

“Prior to his execution, Hussein was considered one of the world’s best known and most hated Arab leaders,” according to the motion, which says prosecutors do not have to prove any connection to Saddam to convict Wyatt of the charges.

Wyatt is also asking to have portions of a diary of a former Iraqi state oil agency employee, Mubdir Al-Khudhair, omitted. It suggests Wyatt provided the Iraq government with information about when the United States would invade and bomb Iraq and how many soldiers would be sent, according to the motion.

“Such actions would likely be considered repugnant by most Americans and could potentially bias,” said the papers, arguing the diary was irrelevant to Wyatt’s case.

One diary entry also states that “Wyatt allegedly convinced Senator Edward Kennedy to deliver a speech against the war with Iraq,” according to the motion. A spokesperson for Senator Kennedy did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The motion also sought to edit out racial remarks Wyatt allegedly made, twice calling an African-American female attorney a derogatory racial term.

Jury selection in the trial of Wyatt, as well as David Chalmers of Bayoil Supply and Trading Inc. and Ludmil Dionissiev, a Bulgarian oil trader living in Houston, is due to begin on September 4.

The U.N. 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 U.N. sanctions over the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The program administered some $67 billion worth of oil, and U.S. and U.N. investigations have found that lobbyists, U.N. and Iraqi officials enriched themselves through kickbacks and bribery.