Europe has come up with a nifty plan to help Iran buy and sell stuff outside the reach of U.S. sanctions. The problem is that the plan is a fraud magnet. How do we know? It’s been tried before, and the fraud was epic.
The plan is known as the “Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges,” or “INSTEX.” Lots of smart people have been involved in creating the program. Let’s hope they’re not too young to remember 1995, when fraudsters first heard that the UN was setting up a program known as “Oil-for-Food.” Similar to INSTEX, Oil-for-Food was designed to allow a sanctioned country (in that case, Iraq) to sell oil on the world market in exchange for food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods. A 2005 independent audit of the program found a staggering variety of fraudulent schemes netting billions of dollars in income for illicit merchants, intermediaries, and the Saddam Hussein regime itself. If INSTEX is not careful, it could be the victim of similar scams.
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