The plot thickens
Tomorrow's news today (it is already 08/10/05 in AU)www.heraldsun.news.com.au/printpage/0,5481,16208252,00.html
Kickbacks oil palms at UN
THE former head of the UN oil-for-food program for Iraq took cash bribes, an inquiry has has found.
The third interim report of the Independent Inquiry Committee said that on the basis of available evidence, Benon Sevan "corruptly benefited from the scheme and recommended that his immunity be lifted.
And questions remained about UN chief Kofi Annan's knowledge of the scandal, the report says.
The interim report of the inquiry, led by former US federal reserve chairman Paul Volcker, says Mr Sevan, a 67-year-old Cypriot, personally received $193,000 from a small company called African Middle East Petroleum, to whom he had allocated 7.3 million oil barrels as part of the $83.9 billion program.
Criminal charges would be brought against Mr Sevan, Mr Volcker said.
The oil allocations were made at Mr Sevan's request to AMEP, headed by Egyptian Fakhry Abdelnour, a cousin of former UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
Cash was deposited from December 1998 to January 2002 to bank accounts belonging to Mr Sevan and his wife in New York, the panel found.
Mr Sevan, who fled to Cyprus two months ago, resigned ahead of the announcement of the charge, which he denies.
He insists he received the money from his aunt and says Mr Annan has sacrificed him.
Mr Sevan had retired from the UN but remained on staff, receiving a nominal salary of $1.30 a year to maintain his diplomatic immunity.
Mr Volcker said Mr Sevan had not responded to efforts to contact him.
Procurement officer Alexander Yakovlev pleaded guilty yesterday to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from UN contractors, according to US prosecutors.
He also admitted to soliciting a bribe under the UN oil-for-food program, making him the first UN official to face criminal charges in connection with the program for Iraq.
He pleaded guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering just hours after Mr Annan waived his diplomatic immunity and could face up to 20 years in prison for each of the charges.
The report says Mr Yakovlev, a Russian living in New York, participated in a scheme to solicit a bribe from a company bidding for an oil inspection contract.
He is accused of having set up a company, Moxyco, to handle the illicit payments, receiving transfers on accounts in the Caribbean and in Switzerland in exchange for his information and help.
The panel also addressed "serious questions" -- already raised in its March report -- about Mr Annan's son, Kojo Annan, once employed by Swiss firm Cotecna, which won a large contract under the oil-for-food program.
Mr Volcker said a recently discovered email raised even more questions about Mr Annan's knowledge about Cotecna's interest, and appeared authentic.
The email indicated then-Cotecna vice-president Michael Wilson, an Annan family friend, spoke with Mr Annan and his entourage in 1998.
Aides said Mr Annan did not remember such discussions and found no trace of it in UN records. – AFP