Suspend Galloway over oil-for-food charity deals, says Parliament watchdog

Parliament's standards watchdog has recommended that George Galloway be suspended from the House of Commons for 18 sitting days after finding that his former charity, the Mariam Appeal, profited from Saddam Hussein's manipulation of the UN's Oil-for-Food Programme.

The Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow was accused by the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee of “conduct aimed at concealing the true source of Iraqi funding of the Mariam Appeal”, set up to fund medical care for Iraqi children.

The watchdog said there was “strong circumstantial evidence” that Galloway had asked the Iraqi government to help fund the Mariam Appeal’s campaigning for the lifting of economic sanctions on Iraq, which it deemed to be the cause of the country’s medical problems.

It accused Galloway of seeking indirect funding from commissions on oil sales under the UN Oil-for-Food Programme in order to avoid the “political difficulties inherent in overt funding of a campaign to lift sanctions against Iraq receiving funding from the government of that country.”

The committee’s report says: “We believe Galloway was complicit in the concealment of the true source of the funds for the Mariam Appeal.” It also described his refusal to investigate the source of substantial donations as “clearly irresponsible”.

Galloway was also accused of failing to cooperate fully with the inquiry and questioning its integrity to such a degree that he had “damaged the reputation of the House”.

Speaking outside Parliament after the report was published, Galloway accepted that he should have asked where the money had come from, but insisted that he hadn’t personally benefited from the Mariam Appeal.

“That is the most important thing for me, because the rest means we are arguing over the funding of a political campaign,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Charity Commission published its own report into the Mariam Appeal, which concluded that it took donations from “improper sources” connected with the Oil-for-Food Programme. A commission spokesman said the Standards Committee had conducted its own independent investigation, but the Commission had collaborated with it.

Police are trying to establish whether there are grounds to prosecute Galloway over the affair, according to The Daily Telegraph.

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