Galbraith stirs conflict anew
October 18, 2010
Peter Galbraith, the American politician and former diplomat, has publicly emerged as a shrewd businessman as well, after winning millions of dollars in a lengthy legal conflict with Norwegian oil company DNO. He stirred up an earlier conflict with a top Norwegian diplomat in the process.
Galbraith has been a target of sharp criticism from a variety of sources over alleged conflicts of interest. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has detailed for months how Galbraith played a key role in forming Iraq’s constitution, helped secure autonomy for northern Iraq and advised US politicians while also helping DNO obtain a license on an Iraqi oil field.
Galbraith, according to Dagens Næringsliv, obtained in return an ownership interest in the field that later was subject to alteration and prompted Galbraith to demand compensation from DNO. A court in London last week ruled in favour of Galbraith and another partner in the field, a firm controlled by Yemen billionaire Shaher Abdulhak, and each now stand to collect as much as NOK 189 million (USD 32.5 million) from DNO.
Both men, Galbraith and Abdulhak, have been in the Norwegian news over the past two years for other reasons as well.
Abdulhak is the father of Farouk Abdulhak, the prime suspect in the rape and murder of Norwegian student Martine Vik Magnussen in London. He’s believed to be protecting his son after the wealthy young man fled London within hours of Magnussen’s death in 2008. The case has stirred outrage in Norway and involved the highest levels of government, as Magnussen’s family and government officials alike attempt to seek justice for her murder.
In addition to being involved with Abdulhak in the DNO business deal, Galbraith also has stirred controversy through a long-simmering conflict with his former boss in Afghanistan, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide, while Eide was UN Special Envoy in Kabul. Eide and Galbraith had a highly public quarrel over last year’s elections in Afghanistan and Galbraith was ultimately dismissed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Eide told Dagens Næringsliv late last week that the quarrel was more over Galbraith’s alleged conflicts of interest and that Eide didn’t like the various roles Galbraith was holding while acting as an adviser to DNO, the Kurdish authorities and the US Senate.
“It’s clear there were conflicts of interest here,” Eide told Dagens Næringsliv, adding that he thought the conflicts contained issues of morality.
“There should be some limits within a person to avoid these kind of double roles,” Eide said. “I view a lack of such limits as very serious.”
A researcher at the Norwegian foreign policy institute NUPI, Reidar Visser, has also has been highly critical of Galbraith’s various roles. The sheer size of the compensation Galbraith now will receive from DNO “underscores the ethical problems in Galbraith’s triple role,” Visser told Dagens Næringsliv.
Galbraith had hinted last year that Eide overlooked possible election fraud in Afghanistan to help the Afghan president retain power. Eide denied that, and told Dagens Næringsliv that the fight between him and Galbraith was actually over “respect for fundamental rules and regulations in a society.” Eide suggested that Galbraith also had viewed himself as “above the rules.”
Now Eide thinks Galbraith should donate the millions he’s won from DNO to children in Kurdistan. “Then I would have greater respect for him,” Eide told DN.
Galbraith didn’t respond to Dagens Næringsliv’s requests for comment but told The Boston Globe (external link) that he intends to invest his windfall in alternative energy projects in Vermont and Kurdistan. Galbraith, son of the late well-known economist John Kenneth Galbraith, is currently running for a seat in the state senate in Vermont, where his opponent quickly pointed out that he “talks about investments in wind and solar … but chose to invest his own money in oil.”
Galbraith denied any inconsistency, telling the Boston Globe that “we still need oil for the foreseeable future” and that it’s “far better to produce oil from a few hundred yards under the soil of Kurdistan than from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.”