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December 22, 2006
Another Conviction On UN Corruption

Federal prosecutors have successfully concluded another case of corruption at the United Nations, this time getting a guilty plea from an Indian businessman who coughed up favors in order to garner millions in procurement contracts:

A businessman representing an Indian state-owned company pleaded guilty to bribing a former senior U.N. official with an unspecified amount of cash, a cellphone and a discounted Manhattan apartment in exchange for more than $50 million worth of business contracts, federal authorities announced Thursday.

Michael Garcia, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that Nishan Kohli, 30, admitted making the illicit payments to Sanjay Bahel, then a high-ranking U.N. purchasing official, as compensation for steering business to Kohli from 1998 to 2003. Kohli faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. Bahel last month pleaded not guilty to related charges.

Kohli's attorney, Jacob Laufer, declined to discuss his client's role in the scheme. But he said Kohli signed an agreement with federal authorities on Thursday to cooperate in their ongoing investigation into corruption at the United Nations. "He has made a mistake, and he's contrite about it," he said.

It's interesting to see that Kohli offered a Manhattan apartment as part of his bribery scheme. Apartments appear to be very popular as unofficial perks at the UN these days.

This isn't the first time that UN procurement has been under the microscope, either. Alexander Yakovlev appears in the Volcker investigation as a man who used his access to over a billion dollars of contracts to spread wealth and favors to his family and close associates. Yakovlev pled guilty to corruption charges shortly after this became public.

Bahel now has to face his indictment alone. He has been charged with various corruption charges, and with Kohli pleading out, he has to understand that his trial has just become much more difficult. Of course, Bahel may also have information on corruption at the UN that could help alleviate his loneliness. Certainly, the US continues to prove that corruption at Turtle Bay is hardly a solitary pursuit -- in fact, it looks like it may be the one unifying theme of the world's debating society.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 22, 2006 6:38 AM

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