Ever since America invaded, there's been something fishy about cell phone service in Iraq. First, the Coalition Provisional Authority ordered Bahraini mobile firm Batelco to shut down its cell service -- after allegedly spending millions on infrastructure. Then, a contract was mysteriously awarded to Orascom Telecom (OT), an Egyptian firm teetering on bankruptcy's brink.Now, the Washington Times reports, the Pentagon has asked the CPA to cancel $500 million worth of contracts of OT and two other cell providers, "citing fraud and the companies' links to an Iraqi-born Briton with ties to Saddam Hussein."OT is partly owned by Nadhmi Auchi, who also has a controlling interest in the bank BNP Paribas. The French financial giant has been accused of helping Saddam Hussein drain the U.N.'s "Oil-for-Food" program for his personal gain.
The Orascom contract contains a provision prohibiting ownership of the license from being held by "supporters or beneficiaries of the Saddam Hussein regime," [a Pentagon] memorandum said...Pentagon investigators have said bribes of up to $11.5 million were paid to Iraqis and other foreign nationals to win the contracts for the three companies with links to Auchi, who was convicted last year by a French court as part of an oil company financial scheme...U.S. officials said last week that the FBI is conducting a preliminary inquiry into whether Auchi or his associates bribed U.S. and Iraqi officials to fix bids for Iraqi cell phone contracts.