In anticipation of a highly critical report coming from the Volcker Commission, UN Undersecretary and Oil-For-Food administrator Benon Sevan has called it quits. The BBC reports that Sevan bitterly blames Kofi Annan for sacrficing him to the UN’s political enemies in what he says is a futile attempt to appease them:
Benon Sevan’s announcement on Sunday came a day before a third report on the scandal-plagued programme is published.
It is expected to accuse Mr Sevan of receiving cash in return for allocating Iraqi oil contracts in the mid-1990s. …
In his letter Mr Sevan insisted he was innocent of any charges that would be made against him.
“The charges are false and you, who have known me all these years, should know they are false,” he wrote.
This sounds rather suspicious to me. If the report hadn’t come out yet, Sevan should not have that much information on its content. No doubt Annan shared some of the information with Sevan in the last couple of days before its public release. Even at that, blaming Annan for the findings of Volcker doesn’t exactly add up. Volcker’s investigation is supposed to be independent of Annan; how exactly can Annan use that to “sacrifice’ him? Also, Sevan has well-known close personal links to the UN Secretary-General, and any report slamming Sevan and documenting payoffs will not help Annan in the slightest. In fact, it will make his survival that much more tenuous, as the US and others will make the case that Annan’s incompetent management and oversight allowed Annan’s inner circle to run the OFF program into a shambles.
The outrage and the resignation appear to be calculated to shift the focus off of the charges and their implications and towards the counterargument that Volcker has conducted a witch hunt on behalf of the US. More importantly, it will apply even more directly to American investigations still under way, notably Norm Coleman’s in the Senate. It allows Annan to mourn the loss of a good man’s services to the UN and play victim, enduring the wrath of a friend in order to appease those aligned against Turtle Bay. It’s all a charade, anyway; given the breadth and depth of the corruption in OFF, its administrators should have been fired at once, not allowed to hang around for a couple of years to interfere with the investigations.
The only positive development in this will be Sevan’s absence at the UN from this point forward. Annan should be next, and if either man had any honor at all, they both would have resigned in the face of the OFF debacle that wound up enriching the genocidal lunatic that its design meant to render powerless.
For months, Kofi Annan has denied any connection between the UN Oil-for-Food contractor and himself through his son Kojo. The Secretary-General has gone so far as to state that he never met with Cotecna on OFF business and only had the most general of information from his son. However, Cotecna has found an e-mail that indicates their executives did indeed meet with Kofi, making his earlier denials look more and more suspicious:
A memo written by someone who was then an executive of a major contractor in the United Nations oil-for-food program states that he briefly discussed the company’s effort to win the contract in late 1998 with Secretary General Kofi Annan and his “entourage” and that the executive was told that “we could count on their support.”
The secretary general’s son, Kojo Annan, was employed by Cotecna Inspection Services, a Swiss contractor based in Geneva, and the nature of that relationship is among the issues being investigated by a panel appointed by the United Nations and several Congressional committees.
Kofi Annan has said several times that he did not discuss the contract with his son and was not involved in Cotecna’s selection. A United Nations panel headed by Paul A. Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, concluded in March that Mr. Annan had not influenced the awarding of the $10 million dollar-a-year contract to the company. …
The memo, written on Dec. 4, 1998, by Michael R. Wilson, then a Cotecna vice president who was Kojo Annan’s friend and a family friend of the secretary general, describes a meeting that took place during the 20th summit meeting of Francophone leaders in Paris in late November 1998.
“We had brief discussions with the SG and his entourage,” the memo states. “Their collective advise was that we should respond as best as we could to the Q & A session of the 1-12-98 and that we could count on their support.”
The “1-12-98” refers to a meeting Mr. Wilson and a delegation of Cotecna officials had in New York on Dec. 1, 1998, with senior United Nations officials who were considering which of three companies to select for the inspection contract that Cotecna won 10 days later.
The memo does not state that Kojo Annan was present at the discussion with the secretary general. But it continues with a description of “courtesy greetings” on behalf of Cotecna with presidents of several African countries held by a person identified as “KA” at the summit meeting. Asked for comment, a consultant for the company said it appeared that Mr. Wilson was referring to Kojo Annan in the memo.
The memo is attached to an e-mail message sent by Mr. Wilson to the company’s owners and senior executives. It is dated Dec. 4, 1998, a week before Cotecna was informed that it had won the contract to inspect goods purchased by Iraq under the program, which allowed Iraq to sell some of its oil to meet needs of its civilian population despite United Nations sanctions.
So it appears that Kofi has not been honest with investigators to this point. No one with a brain believed his denials anyway, but this confirms that he has lied about his association with Cotecna and the role his son played in getting the Oil-For-Food contract. Kofi, Kojo, and Cotecna appear to have participated in a broad cover-up of the Secretary-General’s role in ensuring his son’s company controlled the Oil-for-Food program.
Now the question remains: why?
Since the SG and Cotecna took such pains to keep their meetings and arrangements hidden, it would follow that the relationship between Cotecna and the Annans had more than just coincidence as a product. My guess is that more money than just Kojo’s $2500 per month is involved in this transaction and cover-up. Cotecna’s records might show even more surprises in the coming weeks.
BUMP: To top. And welcome to Instapundit and Michelle Malkin readers.
Roger L. Simon has a letter from the counsel for a Oil-For-Food witness that had been promised anonymity, but found out that he had been exposed as a source of information for the Volcker Commission. The letter from Pierre Mouselli’s attorney, Adrian Gonzales Maltes, includes a statement from whistleblower Robert Parton explicitly stating that the Volcker Commission leaked this information without his knowledge, an astounding development since Mouselli was Parton’s witness and Parton negotiated Mouselli’s cooperation personally:
“As to the one individual with whom I worked who had such [identity] protection, and from whom I had obtained evidence concerning conversations with the Secretary General, the IIC violated his Confidentiality Agreement during the course of the investigation. Without my knowledge or that of the witness, and in violation of the Confidentiality Agreement, members of the Committee provided the name of the witness — and the substance of his statements — to the Secretary General and his counsel during the investigation …”
Someone in the Volcker Commission has leaked information to Kofi Annan, including the names of witnesses and their testimony. Small wonder that Parton resigned in disgust, preferring to deal with the independent investigations Congress conducts instead of the Annan-appointed (and accountable) Paul Volcker.
This just provides more evidence that the UN has become so thoroughly corrupted that internal investigations will do no good whatsoever; Annan has his thumbs in everything. He will not allow people to reveal the depth of corruption at Turtle Bay and his personal involvement in it without serious attempts at intimidation. The call he made to Mouselli on a private cell-phone number given only to the Volcker Commission to discuss his supposedly confidential testimony served as a warning to Mouselli and everyone else to observe the UN version of omerta, or else.
Roger promises to post any responses he receives from Volcker or his spokespeople. Keep checking back there for updates.
The AP reports this morning that the Volcker investigators that resigned over the last interim report may have done so because it hid key information about Kofi Annan and his lack of cooperation with the investigation. Robert Parton’s files show that Annan failed to mention his contacts with Cotecna when first confronted about the conflict-of-interest issue with his son’s employment at the OFF contractor:
Secretary-General Kofi Annan neglected to mention two key meetings when he was first questioned last year about contacts with his son’s company when it was soliciting business under the U.N. oil-for-food program.
After investigators first interviewed Annan in November, the secretary general revised his account of those contacts, which occurred just months before the company won a U.N. contract.
Though Annan acknowledged meeting with the officials in subsequent interviews, his revisions raised doubts for the probe’s chief investigator, Robert Parton. In the months after the initial interview, Parton’s team had carried out a massive search of Annan’s computer files and uncovered the contacts with the officials in calendars, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
Parton sought to make an issue of Annan’s veracity, concluding the U.N. chief wasn’t initially forthcoming and his story evolved as new facts emerged. Parton also noted Annan’s account sometimes conflicted with other witnesses deemed credible. Drafts of Parton’s report, however, were substantially revised.
Apologists for the UN have expressed outrage that the United States has insisted on parallel investigations into the UNSCAM embezzlement, accusing Norm Coleman and others as being shills for the Republican far right. However, the closer we look at the UN, the more that corruption appears to start at the very top. Volcker now looks suspect himself. Why would Paul Volcker edit Parton’s report to edit out Annan’s evasions from the record?
The idea that the UN can reform itself clearly exists either as a Utopian fantasy or a bigger scam than Oil-for-Food itself. As long as the Annan regime remains in place, the corruption and incompetence at Turtle Bay will never be cleared out. Investigations that remain responsible to Annan’s office will never reveal the truth, as this episode clearly shows.
Contrary to Kofi Annan’s claims to the contrary, the Volcker Commission did not clear the UN Secretary-General of wrongdoing or incompetence in its written report last month. That comes directly from Paul Volcker himself, who found himself rather amazed by that statement from the head of the United Nations:
In an interview aired yesterday with Fox News, Mr. Volcker took direct issue with Mr. Annan’s insistence that he had been exonerated by investigators probing both his role in overseeing the Iraq aid program and conflicts of interest involving a key contract awarded to a Swiss firm that employed Mr. Annan’s son.
“I thought we criticized [Mr. Annan] rather severely,” Mr. Volcker said of his panel’s interim report, released March 29. “I would not call that an exoneration.”
Asked point-blank whether Mr. Annan had been cleared of wrongdoing in the $10 billion scandal, Mr. Volcker replied, “No.”
Perhaps Volcker was naive enough to think that Annan appointed him to “find the truth,” as Volcker describes his mission later in the interview. However, Annan’s spin of Volcker’s interim report — the investigation continues to this day — should clearly show Volcker that Annan used him and his reputation to hide his culpability behind a series of ambiguous findings, and claim that as exoneration. Annan created the Volcker Commission as a reaction to investigations spinning up in the US, which have subpoena power that Volcker lacks. He deftly used Volcker to capture jurisdiction and ensured that subpoenas could not be put into play, making it easier for people to hide documentation and refuse to assist with the investigation.
If Volcker is surprised that such an arrangement leaves the field wide open for Annan to play spin doctor, then he is more foolish than previously thought. That may explain why two of his three lead investigators quit in protest this month, after being overruled on the strength of language in the report that allowed Annan to spin it the way he did. Volcker should reconsider his efforts on behalf of Annan, to whom he reports, and contemplate marrying his efforts to that of Senator Norm Coleman and his investigation, which does have subpoena power and could actually find the corruption Volcker says he seeks.
Kofi Annan claimed that the preliminary report from the Volcker Inquiry exonerated him from any indication of corruption, and used the report to lay the blame for the massive corruption in the Oil-For-Food program at the two countries who didn’t use it to buy off Saddam Hussein — the US and UK. Tonight, however, two of the Volcker investigators have resigned in protest, reportedly because they believed that the report went too easy on the Secretary-General:
Two senior investigators with the committee probing corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program have resigned in protest, saying they believe a report that cleared Kofi Annan of meddling in the $64 billion operation was too soft on the secretary-general, a panel member confirmed Wednesday.
The investigators felt the Independent Inquiry Committee, led by former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, played down findings critical of Annan when it released an interim report in late March related to his son, said Mark Pieth, one of three leaders of the committee.
“You follow a trail and you want to see people pick it up,” Pieth told The Associated Press, referring to the two top investigators who left. The committee “told the story” that the investigators presented, “but we made different conclusions than they would have.”
The investigators were identified as Robert Parton and Miranda Duncan.
For now, Parton and Duncan haven’t spoken to the press. However, Pieth’s confirmation shows that the two people who collated and analyzed the evidence came to the conclusion that we all suspected — that Annan had some part in the corruption or its cover-up, more directly than Volcker was willing to state. It also points out that the Volcker Commission has no problem watering down the findings of its own investigative staff. Why? Remember that Paul Volcker reports directly to Kofi Annan and serves at his pleasure.
Perhaps Senator Norm Coleman can find a place for Parton and Duncan on his Senate investigative subcommittee, which seems to be the only place honest assessments can be made of the evidence.
The Associated Press reports that a new American indictment issued in the massive Oil-For-Food corruption scandal includes two high-ranking UN officials, a development that will rock Turtle Bay yet again:
Two high-ranking UN officials have been cited in a U.S. criminal complaint against a South Korean businessman who was at the centre of a 1970s congressional corruption scandal and is now accused of accepting millions of dollars from Iraq related to the UN oil-for-food program.
The reported involvement of the two unidentified UN officials was likely to cast a new shadow on the world body, which has spent more than a year trying to get to the bottom of allegations of massive corruption in the $64-billion humanitarian program that was aimed at helping Iraqis cope with UN sanctions.
The complaint calling for an arrest warrant against Tonsun Park was made public at the same time as an indictment charging a Texas oil company owner and two oil traders from Britain and Bulgaria with paying millions of dollars in secret kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime to secure oil deals.
Once again, we see the wheels of justice turning ever closer to the core of the corruption in UNSCAM by the use of subpoena power. While the Volcker inquiry has to rely on the goodwill of all involved to turn over the relevant information, the US does have a bit more leverage to get to the truth. And while Kofi Annan blathers about accountability and scolds the West for not putting more dollars into his hands, the truth is that Annan and his gang of thieves at the UN have managed to fleece starving and victimized people of their food and their dignity for over ten years and counting.
The AP does not make clear whether the UN officials involved in the indictment have been charged or are just unindicted co-conspirators. If it’s the latter, it may mean that the two hold diplomatic immunity — putting them very near Annan’s inner circle, if not squarely within it. Perhaps Annan would then care to revisit that accountability about which he wrote in the New York Times this week? Probably not, if his track record gives any indication.
The Financial Times reports that Kojo Annan, the son of the UN Secretary-General, received over $300,000 in payments from Cotecna, half of which went through channels designed to hide the payments (via Instapundit):
Kojo Annan, son of Kofi Annan, United Nations secretary-general, received at least $300,000 from Cotecna, a Swiss inspection company awarded a contract ultimately worth about $60m under the Iraqi oil-for-food contract.
The amount was almost double the sum previously disclosed, but payments were arranged in ways that obscured where the money came from or whom it went to.
This shows that Cotecna knew perfectly well that their relationship with Kojo Annan would be viewed as inappropriate. Hiding payments demonstrates a knowledge of impropriety, which flies in the face of Cotecna’s denials in the past. Cotecna made $60 million from the management of oil deals with Iraq based on the OFF program, which means Kojo by himself accounted for 0.5% of all revenue from the contract — a rather amazing amount.
Of course, Cotecna claims that Kojo had nothing to do with the OFF contract. However, as FT reports, that disclaimer may run into the wall of reality rather quickly:
[Cotecna] insists his work had nothing to do with the UN contract and that it never took advantage of Kojo’s access to the secretary-general.
But the FT/Il Sole investigation reveals that senior executives from Cotecna met Kofi Annan on various occasions, once at his UN office. A UN spokesman said the meetings had nothing to do with a contract awarded under the oil-for-food programme. Kojo Annan declined to comment.
What else would Cotecna need to discuss in Kofi Annan’s office, other than the OFF program? The weather at Turtle Bay? The reason for the denials, which have worn threadbare by now, is that the meetings tie Kofi himself through Kojo personally to the corruption in the OFF program. If Kofi is to be believed, he let Benon Sevan run the entire program and he had nothing to do with it except supervising Sevan’s work. He has consistently claimed that he did nothing operational with OFF. Now we have one of the prime contractors for the program meeting with Annan and paying his son wads of money through covert channels at the same time. That may not be enough to convict Kofi for a RICO indictment, but it’s getting pretty close to it.
In other words, the stink has risen all the way to the top. Kofi Annan needs to explain why Cotecna met with him on “various occasions”, what topics were discussed, and who arranged the meetings. Cotecna executives should be subpoenaed by Congress to testify under oath about their contacts with Kofi and these surreptitious payments to Kojo in order to ensure that the full story comes out.
Testifying yesterday in front of a House subcommittee, a former UN monitor for the Oil-For-Food program testified that he saw numerous acts of corruption while working on it, and that as much as 25% of the funds intended on helping Iraqi citizens never reached them as a result. When he tried to call attention to the corruption, the UN rewarded him by firing him from his job:
A former United Nations monitor of the organization’s oil-for-food program in Iraq told a congressional committee Thursday that the program had “gaping holes” and that large amounts of aid never reached the Iraqi people.
Rehan Mullick testified that by his estimate more than 20 percent of the shipments to Iraq, worth $1 billion a year, were not distributed properly, with many goods pilfered by the Iraqi military.
“A fourth or fifth of the supplies were not distributed,” he said. …
Mullick told the subcommittee that he repeatedly alerted U.N. officials of problems he observed but was rebuffed.
“Each suggestion resulted in my supervisors reducing my job responsibilities,” Mullick said. “This continued to occur until my only job was to run the slide projector at staff meetings.”
Mullick said he eventually submitted a 10-page report to U.N. headquarters in 2002 reporting that 22 percent of supplies imported under the program never reached Iraq’s 27 million people.
“I heard nothing,” Mullick said. “Finally I was contacted and told my contract was not being renewed.”
The problem with OFF was never that upper UN management didn’t know what happened to the funding. The problem was that they knew all too well where the money went: into their own pockets, and Saddam’s as well. The last person they needed was one who kept pointing it out to them, apparently. This is how the UN handles aid money and management of humanitarian programs, which is the reason we should avoid using the UN to do this kind of work in the future.
The media appears aghast at the nomination of John Bolton as the new US ambassador to the UN, but the testimony of Dr. Mullick shows that a skeptic is precisely what this organization needs. The UN will not recover from its ethical and intellectual slide by having nothing but cheerleaders at Turtle Bay. UN executive management needs more accountability and a hell of a lot more skepticism from the entire membership. Since it’s doubtful most of the rest of the globe will provide it, it is our duty to do so.
In a further demonstration of the folly of a UN sanctions regime that key nations undermined and UN management corrupted, the London Telegraph reports on allegations from a former Cotecna inspector that his fellow front-line co-workers often drank on the job and rarely did any work to stop the smuggling:
UN inspectors in Iraq spent their working hours drinking vodka while ignoring a shadowy nocturnal fleet believed to be smuggling goods for Saddam Hussein, a former senior inspector told the US Senate yesterday.
In a move that provoked fury from officials of the Swiss firm Cotecna, an Australian former inspector detailed a picture of incompetence, indifference and drunkeness among the men acting as the frontline for UN sanctions.
Yeah, that box containing Saddam certainly kept him honest, didn’t it? Speaking of honesty, Arthur Ventham gave it out in spades to the Senate panel investigating the OFF corruption. He talked about smuggling operations taking place right in front of the inspectors, who shrugged and did nothing about it. In a twist that sounds more like the Mafia than the United Nations (insert joke here), Ventham also testified that Cotecna hired a lot of people to stand around doing nothing as a matter of course:
He said that at Iskendurun in eastern Turkey, some officials had refused to work.
When he asked one of his bosses why, he was told: “They were friends or relatives of potential clients, and are only in the mission so the company could secure future contracts in Nigeria, Comoros and another African country.
“When I said that this was unfair on everyone else, I was told that it was general practice in Cotecna.”
CQ readers will recall, surely, that Cotecna’s most famous ex-employee is Kojo Annan, another employee paid for services that Cotecna now cannot identify. It would appear that his presence was only required to open doors — and one wonders exactly how Kojo did that.
Cotecna angrily responded afterwards that Ventham was a disgruntled former employee who had been fired earlier. That begs the question of exactly how one goes about getting fired from such a company … actually doing inspections?