Sargeant faces 'war profiteering' charges
Harry Sargeant, the Florida businessman who has been a major fund-raiser for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Charlie Crist, faces allegations in Congress that he overcharged U.S. taxpayers to ship jet fuel to Iraq. A letter sent Thursday by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that based on a recent briefing by Pentagon officials and documents, "Mr. Sargeant's company appears to have engaged in a reprehensible form of war profiteering." He asked Gates to conduct a thorough investigation.
Sargeant issued a statement calling Waxman's allegations "deeply disappointing" and saying he wished its authors "had sought all of the facts." He cited a "complex, risky and, at times, life-threatening" challenge to keep fuel flowing to U.S. troops in Iraq, and noted that the Defense Department has awarded certificates of achievement to his firm. "The conclusions in Chairman Waxman's letter aren't supported by the facts," Sargeant said.
The congressman -- a liberal Democrat and long-time critic of the war in Iraq -- says that since receiving the contract in 2004, Sargeant's firm has earned a profit of more than $210-million, $70-million of which went to Sargeant. The letter says a Pentagon office that oversaw the contract found Sargeant's reduced price of $2.10 a gallon was 36 cents a gallon higher than it should be and that he twice rebuffed government requests to lower his prices.
Waxman's letter noted that Sargeant's company, International Oil Trading Company (IOTC), was one of six bidders on an Iraq fuel contract. It submitted the highest bid, but was the only firm that met a requirement to have a "letter of authorization" from the Jordanian government to transport fuel across that country. Sargeant did that by forming a partnership with two Jordanian businessmen, one of whom is the brother-in-law of Jordan's King Abdullah II. "Mr. Sargeant and IOTC appear to have taken full advantage of their ties to the Jordanian Royal Family," Waxman wrote.
Sargeant (at center) introduced the king to Crist when the governor toured Israel and Jordan in 2007. The South Florida businessman was a fraternity brother of Crist's when they atteended Florida State. Sargeant also was a fund-raising "bundler" for McCain's campaign, which returned about $50,000 in contributions linked to Sargeant's efforts.