Fat Lady not yet singing

Lets face it Galloway did what he is good at yesterday and the performance of the Senate Committee was woeful.

As Christopher Hitchens writes in the Mirror today:

The member for Bethnal Green and Bow showed the clear superiority of a parliamentary training (and a soapbox training) over a senatorial one.

…..The real issue, as the documents make clear, is not whether Gorgeous George got money but whether his patron and associate and contributor Fawaz Zureikat was the beneficiary of oil deals and kickbacks.

On this point, Mr Galloway has arranged to be adequately uninformed for some time.

He was no better informed yesterday, and thus deflected all questions on to a person who hasn’t yet shown up.

After asking him several times whether he thought the documents were forged or not (and how was he supposed to answer that?) and whether or not he was “troubled” by the idea of a Zureikat kickback (another pointless question), the gentlemen of Capitol Hill called it a day and Galloway was soon outside again, doing what he does best and entertaining the press.

The press were certainly entertained judging by their reports today. While the papers praise Galloway for his impressive cabaret performance, the point we made yesterday about Galloway’s less than honest account of the Charity Commission’s investigation into the Mariam Appeal is slowly emerging on to the media’s radar.

The Telegraph was the only paper that picked up on Galloway’s false claim that the Commission had looked at “every penny in and every penny out” and “found no impropriety” but the Today programme (Audio here) also decided to take a look at the Charity Commission’s investigation and their interview with an official is now running on the Press Association wire.

Anti-war MP George Galloway could face a fresh inquiry into the appeal he set up to help an Iraqi girl suffering from leukaemia, it was disclosed today.

Kenneth Dibble, director of legal services for the Charity Commission, said they were in touch with the US Senate sub-committee investigating allegations that Mr Galloway was allocated millions of barrels of cut-price oil by Saddam Hussein’s regime under the UN oil-for-food programme.

It was claimed that some of the money was channelled through the Mariam Appeal.

….He said that the Commission had now asked the sub-committee for the underlying evidence which supported its report in order to establish whether there was any more it should do.

“When we have that information we will look again at the material which we assessed during the course of the inquiry and consider whether anything further needs to be done,” he said.

“We would have to consider whether or not they were aware of any improper nature of funds coming to the charity if indeed we find there is evidence to support that.”

Don’t forget there is also the Parliamentary Standards investigation into Galloway which is due to resume shortly. Galloway will also have to deal with The Telegraph’s appeal case which legal experts tells me may have been boosted by the Senate report – and believe it or not, yesterday’s hearing was only a phase in the subcommittee’s report process.

Meanwhile the Scotsman breaks ranks with those papers who have viewed yesterday’s events simply in terms of the political theatre:

GEORGE Galloway yesterday failed in his attempt to convince a sceptical US Senate investigative committee that he had not profited from oil dealings with Iraq under the UN’s controversial oil-for-food programme.

Despite a typically barnstorming performance full of bluster and rhetorical flourishes, the former Glasgow Kelvin MP was pinned down by persistent questioning over his business relationship with Fawaz Zureikat, the chairman of the Mariam Appeal – set up to assist a four-year-old Iraqi girl suffering from leukaemia.

…..The Respect MP clearly thought he came out on top, and said so bluntly afterwards, describing the chairman as “not much of a lyncher”.

But Mr Coleman, accused by the MP of being “remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice”, appeared unswayed by Mr Galloway’s testimony. “If in fact he lied to this committee, there will have to be consequences,” he said afterwards.

Asked whether Mr Galloway violated his oath to tell the truth before the committee, Mr Coleman said: “I don’t know. We’ll have to look over the record. I just don’t think he was a credible witness.”

……Under repeated questioning, Mr Galloway conceded that Mr Zureikat did have extensive business dealings with the Saddam regime but, challenged over whether his friend’s generous contributions to the Mariam Appeal – £900,000 by his own previous assessments – could have come from the sale of oil, he stonewalled.

Urged to say if he would repay the cash if it could be proved to have come from such a source, he again ducked the question.

As I’ve said throughout this past week, the key question on money is not whether Galloway personally profited from Zureikat’s businesses it is whether the Respect MP’s political campaign fund was financed by a man who benefitted from oil for food deals with Saddam’s regime? Where did Zureikat’s £375,000 donation to the Mariam Appeal come from?

The two basic questions raised on this blog remain unasked by the media and the Senate sub-committee and therefore unanswered by George Galloway:

Why did Galloway move the Mariam Appeal documents out of the country?

Why will Galloway not make the financial statements of the Mariam Appeal available despite promising to do so two years ago?

Update: The BBC website is now running the story.

As is the Evening Standard.

And the US news agency Associated Press.