Halliburton's Man in Iran
As the United States and Iran clash over the nuclear issue at the United Nations summit, the Islamic republic is pursuing a corruption investigation against a former top official on its nuclear negotiating team for his ties to Halliburton, the oil services giant once run by Vice President Cheney.
Cyrus Nasseri, senior Iranian representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is refusing to return home from Vienna because of his alleged involvement in an oil corruption case, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The complex story of Halliburton in the "Axis of Evil," which I reported in February, just keeps getting more interesting.
Nasseri, according to reports in the British and Iranian online media, wore two hats. Besides advocating Iran's right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program, he also served as a board member of a company called Oriental Kish. In January, the firm won a big contract to develop a huge Iranian natural gas field. Oriental Kish, in turn, subcontracted parts of the project to Halliburton Products and Services, a subsidiary registered in the Cayman Islands with offices in Dubai.
But the controversy did not die, according to Iran Focus, a nonprofit news site based in France. From the start, hardline members of Iran's parliament charged that Oriental Kish was little more than a front for Halliburton and demanded an investigation. In June fellow hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president, in part on a pledge to "purge the country's oil industry of Mafia-like influence and corruption."
In July Nasseri was questioned by authorities but retained his job amid press reports that several top Oriental Kish executives faced corruption charges. One Tehran daily reported that investigators had found $1 million in cash in one executive's home. On September 5, Iran Focus reported that Ahmadinejad (say "Ak-MOD-knee-jad") had replaced Nasseri on the Iran's nuclear negotiating team. The news that Naseri would not return to Iran was reported the next day.
As the U.S.-Iranian impasse grows, Tehran's investigation of Oriental Kish and its ties to Halliburton continues. I suspect we have not heard the last of this story.
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