FBI chief is target of criminal investigation

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The Independent Online
WASHINGTON - The FBI Director, William Sessions, is the target of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department which may delay the bureau's politically super-sensitive examination of whether the Bush administration deliberately withheld information on a fraud involving billions of dollars of loans to Iraq, writes Rupert Cornwell.

Thus far, Mr Sessions has acknowledged the existence only of an in-house ethics inquiry. But other officials confirmed this had broadened into a preliminary criminal investigation, into allegations that he tried to steer a government security contract to a family friend, and whether he improperly secured exemption from income taxes.

Yesterday, Mr Sessions claimed not to know the specific charges against him, but said he was confident he would be exonerated. It is the timing of the disclosure which has above all aroused suspicion, especially among congressmen investigating the fraud case involving gigantic loans channelled to Iraq before the Gulf war, by the Atlanta branch of an Italian bank. The affair is hugely embarrassing for the President, as further evidence his adminstration sought to cover up details of its conciliatory pre-1990 policies towards Saddam Hussein.