AHMED CHALABI UPDATE….Of the many black marks on Ahmed Chalabi’s record, the original black mark, his primal sin if you will, was his 1992 conviction for bank fraud in Jordan. Basically, an audit uncovered the fact that Chalabi’s Petra Bank was in the habit of loaning huge amounts of money to his own relatives and never bothering to ask for repayment. He fled the country and was eventually convicted in absentia on 31 charges of embezzlement, theft, misuse of depositor funds and currency speculation. Total cost to the Jordanian government was upwards of $300 million.

Needless to say, the Jordanians were pretty pissed off about this, and they’ve held a powerful grudge ever since. So why did they surprise the world a few days ago by suddenly saying they were willing to pardon Chalabi? Via Jeanne d’Arc, Seymour Hersh tells us what he knows:

AMY GOODMAN: This latest news that we get out of Jordan right now about the pardoning of Ahmad Chalabi ? King Abdullah of Jordan agreeing to pardon the one-time CIA asset. For years he faced a 22-year prison sentence in Jordan for fraud after his Petra Bank collapsed with more than 300 million dollars in missing deposits. The Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, asking the king to do this. What’s going on here, and the significance?

SEYMOUR HERSH: I?m sort of glad and not glad you asked me that question, because I do know something about it. Here’s what I know about that. I know that King Jordan comes to visit America quite a bit ? the United States. And the President likes him ? our President, George Bush, because he speaks good English. He went to a prep school here in America, and he’s very pro-Western. And he sees the President, and he has told friends ? this is about nine months ago ? he was stunned. He was seeing the President. The President said, you know, ?Your? ? whatever he calls him ? ?I have a favor.? He said, ?Of course, anything.? ?I want you to pardon Chalabi.?

And he was stunned, because, you know, how can he pardon Chalabi after what he had done. The money he stole was from old women and children, you know, little funds, and he was reviled, Chalabi. I have actually read ? I actually somebody in the intelligence community once gave me the transcript of his trial in Arabic. And we had it translated at The New Yorker. This time he was sort of out of vogue, and a story never emerged out of it, but the trial was devastating. I mean, they had him nailed. And he was smuggled out of the country. He probably was in cahoots, by the way, with various members of the royal family then during this stuff, you know, bribery, etc.

In any case, he was stunned, and he didn’t know what to say. He went back and he asked people in the parliament, who said, ?Are you kidding?? So all I can tell you is that Abdullah is doing what the President of the United States, to his amazing shock, because this was after the stuff came out about Chalabi and his connection to Iran. This is probably a neo-con, a neoconservative play. I guess if you wanted to extrapolate it, I don’t know whether ? if anybody cares, but I?m sure the White House would deny it and say it’s not true, but I can categorically tell you this is Abdullah’s story, this I do know. And he was stunned.

It’s nice to have friends in high places, isn’t it?

Chalabi is still a top contender in the all-time chutzpah race, by the way. He now says that he won’t accept a pardon because, you know, he’s the one who was cheated and he wants Jordan to repay the money they stole from him. The fun never stops.