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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 July, 2004, 21:42 GMT 22:42 UK
Bomb kills oil-for-food auditor
Scene of explosion which killed Karim
Karim died in hospital after the blast
An Iraqi official heading an inquiry into alleged corruption in the UN oil-for-food programme was killed by a bomb on Thursday, it has been revealed.

The official, Ihsan Karim, died in hospital after a bomb placed under one of the cars in his convoy exploded.

The board he headed had been given independence from the government as it investigated commissions paid to members of the former regime.

In return, the regime allegedly gave billions of dollars worth of contracts.

The General Accounting Office of the US government has said that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his associates raised some $4bn in illegal revenue by imposing oil surcharges and commissions on suppliers of goods to Iraq under the programme.

Mr Karim was appointed by the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer, as head of the Finance Ministry audit board in April.

The board tasked international accountancy firm Ernst and Young with investigating commissions paid to the former government.

'Left on their own'

It was not clear whether Mr Karim had been targeted because of the investigation.

A spokesman for Ahmad Chalabi, the former financier and Iraqi opposition leader who has drawn attention to corruption in the programme, said the board was ill-equipped to handle the probe.

"The assassination of Mr Karim is very worrying," Zaab Sethna said. "Bremer appointed the audit board and left them on their own."

"It is impossible to speculate who killed Mr Karim, but the oil-for-food corruption involved very powerful people inside and outside Iraq," he added.

Under the oil-for-food programme, Iraq was allowed to sell limited quantities of oil to ease the impact of UN sanctions on its people.

Billions of dollars worth of goods flowed through the programme, which was managed from New York through the French bank Paribas.

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