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Gretchen Peters reports that the Pentagon has awarded an international fugitive, shadowy Saudi financier Gaith Pharaon, an $80 million contract to supply jet fuel in Afghanistan (h/t Ron Beasley). Pharaon is a fugitive from the FBI as well as the subject of investigations by France and Italy.

The contract to supply jet fuel to American bases in Afghanistan was awarded to the Attock Refinery Ltd, a Pakistani-based refinery owned by Gaith Pharaon. Pharaon is wanted in connection with his alleged role at the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and the CenTrust savings and loan scandal, which cost US tax payers $1.7 billion.

The Saudi businessman was also named in a 2002 French parliamentary report as having links to informal money transfer networks called hawala, known to be used by traders and terrorists, including Al Qaeda.

Interestingly, Pharaon was also an investor in President George W. Bush's first business venture, Arbusto Energy.

To call that information "interesting" is to put it rather mildly. Can you imagine the hoo-hah that would erupt in the American trad media if a Democrat such as Barack Obama, say, were connected by even two degrees of separation to an international crook like Pharaon?

And yet Pharaon was a Harvard classmate of Bush's and a key investor in Arbusto/Harken Energy. He has a notoriously unsavory record. During the Carter administration he was involved in the disgrace of Bert Lance, and then a dozen years later in another banking scandal, the collapse of the shady BCCI due to massive fraud that cost the bank's clients billions of dollars. In the US, he was the second largest shareholder in CenTrust when it went belly up. The Federal Reserve then barred Pharaon from doing business in the US, and the FBI indicted him. Pharaon has been a fugitive ever since.

The FBI accuses the Saudi millionaire of fraud "involving millions of dollars" in the case of the Bank of Commerce and Credit International...In 1995 a US judge ordered Pharaon to give up $102m of his assets for his role in the BCCI fraud. He is alleged to have acted as the frontman for BCCI to acquire illegal stakes in American banks.

American pilots in Afghanistan depend for their lives upon the fuel supplied by this crook. Another in a long line of scandalous war-contracts from the Bush "administration".

Update: The ABC reporter is Gretchen Peters, not Brian Ross as originally stated.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Jun 07, 2008 at 07:00 PM PDT.

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