The Oil-for-Food Program continues to generate convictions against corrupt United Nations officials. The latest comes against Russian diplomat Vladimir Kuznetsov, who chaired a UN budget committee and used the procurement process to take in more that $300,000 in bribes:
Kuznetsov helped Alexander Yakovlev, who worked in the UN’s procurement office, pocket illegal payments from foreign companies seeking UN contracts.
Yakovlev pleaded guilty in 2005 to soliciting more than $1m in bribes and co-operated with authorities. He testified against Kuznetsov.
The procurement officer was the first UN official to face criminal charges over the scandal-hit oil-for-food programme to Iraq.
Kuznetsov could get 30 years in prison for his corruption, although he will likely get much less. The sentencing has been scheduled for June, which gives him plenty of time to spend what’s left of his bribe money on some character witnesses and sob stories.
Kuznetsov first got entangled in the OFF scandal in 2000. At that time, as head of the budget committee, Kuznetsov discovered the off-shore banking accounts that Yakovlev arranged to hold his increasing fortunes in payoffs. Rather than blow the whistle on corruption — a move apparently not encouraged by the Turtle Bay environment — Kuznetsov instead insisted on getting a piece of the action. As the chair of the budget committee, he certainly had plenty of access to the procurement processes and could set himself up to be enriched by them, an opportunity Kuznetsov did not allow to slip past.
Kuznetsov has interesting connections, too. He worked in the Russian Foreign Ministry at the same time that he held the position with the UN, according to the report at the time of his arrest. His conviction may allow for more information to flow about Vladimir Putin’s dealings with Saddam Hussein, including his interference on Saddam’s behalf at the UN Security Council for more than a decade.