An American businessman living overseas paid at least $630,000 in kickbacks to U.S. occupation authority officials to win reconstruction contracts in Iraq, according to a federal affidavit made public Wednesday.
Philip H. Bloom, a U.S. citizen who has lived in Romania for many years, was arrested recently at Newark International Airport in New Jersey. He made a brief appearance Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington and remains in federal custody.
A government affidavit alleges that Mr. Bloom conspired with officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority and U.S. military to rig bids for contracts in Al-Hillah and Karbala, two cities 50 miles to 60 miles south of Baghdad. In some cases, Mr. Bloom's companies performed no work, Patrick McKenna Jr., an investigator in the IG's office, said in the affidavit.
Mr. Bloom or companies he controls made bank deposits of $353,000 on behalf of at least two CPA officials and bought them real estate in North Carolina as well as vehicles and jewelry worth more than $280,000 in 2004 and 2005, Mr. McKenna said.
At one point, Mr. Bloom allegedly was paying at least $200,000 a month to CPA officials and others, although the affidavit does not say for how long.
Projects won by Mr. Bloom's companies included a new police academy for Al-Hillah and renovation of the public library in Karbala.
The affidavit did not include the entire value of all contracts awarded to Mr. Bloom's companies but said he received at least $3.5 million between January and June of last year.
Cash, vehicles, and real estate are bad enough, but jewelry? Someone from the Coalition Provisional Authority will have to explain the bling to the families of the 2,175 American military dead.
While we're on the subject of freedom and democracy, it must have been a liberating feeling for a fraudster like Mr. Bloom to operate with such impunity, just as it continues to be for his thieving plutocratic clients in the Bush administration.
But, if the teachings of Jesus have any meaning at all, not for much longer. Mr. Bloom and his CPA camel are working their way through the eye of a needle.