Harry Sargeant III, a retired Top Gun pilot and former GOP fundraiser is facing a lawsuit in Florida that claims that his company paid off Jordanian government officials to control supply lines of fuel to U.S. forces in Iraq.
The lawsuit claims that an ex-CIA agent working at Sargeant’s oil company wired a $9 million dollar bribe to the head of Jordan’s intelligence agency in 2007. Mohammad al-Saleh, the plaintiff in the case, is a member of Jordan’s royal family. Al-Saleh claims that the payment was a kickback that helped Sargeant perpetuate a monopoly on shipping fuel though Jordan to U.S. bases in neighboring Iraq. A congressional investigation in 2008 confirmed the monopoly and accused Sargeant’s energy business, the International Oil Trading Co. (IOTC), of price gouging the Pentagon in what it called the “worst form of war profiteering.” A Pentagon audit found this year that IOTC was overpaid by as much as $200 million on fuel contracts dating from 2005. The company, however, insists it was underpaid and has sued the U.S. government for $75 million.
Al-Saleh is seeking $53 million in profits from the Pentagon contracts that he claims were wrongfully denied him when he was dropped as a one-third partner in IOTC by Sargeant and another defendant. Sargeant’s counsel has not disputed that al-Saleh was removed from the company, but argues that he was forced out by the Jordanian government without the company’s approval.
The whereabouts of the $9 million wire payment remains a mystery.Sargeant testified last week that he wasn’t sure where the $9 million ended up and “didn’t ask.” But he denied that it “directly or indirectly” benefited the Jordanian government. IOTC official Marty Martin, who headed the CIA unit formed to hunt Osama bin Laden during the Bush administration before joining Sargeant’s company in 2007, took the stand to face questions about his role in sending the wire payment. When asked what happened to the $9 million, Martin responded, “I don’t know.”
To win the contracts, companies had to present the Pentagon with a “letter of authorization” from the Jordanian government to send fuel-truck convoys through Jordanian territory to U.S. bases in Iraq.
In August 2007, IOTC’s contract lawyer, Ron Uscher, advised Sargeant, Martin and other company officials in an email that IOTC could ensure a monopoly on the fuel contracts if it managed to be the only company with the letter of authorization.
“Procurement becomes a sole source favoring IOTC,” he wrote. “Others can bid, but without the (letter of authorization), they cannot legally perform the contract in Jordan.”
Uscher then asked for ideas on how to “ensure that IOTC alone has the letter of authorization.”
Two months later, in October 2007, Martin sent a letter to the Jordanian spy agency, the General Intelligence Directorate (GID). He had formed a close relationship with the agency through his covert CIA work in the Middle East. He asked for assurances that the Jordanian government would grant no letters of authorization to anyone but IOTC for “current or future” Pentagon fuel contracts, and that it would make that intention clear to Washington. A month later, Martin wired the $9 million. Emails to the same GID representative show that Martin deposited the money in a government account “designated” for the head of the GID.
“We are ready for immediate transfer for Basha (the head of the GID),” Martin wrote on Nov. 7, 2007. “In addition to the bank details, we need a name on the account. After 9/11, much harder for numbered account from U.S. banks. “
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