Fox News reported yesterday that they have discovered documents that show Benon Sevan, the UN Oil-For-Food program chief, was notified of illegal bribes and kickbacks in a blunt and direct letter asking for his help in getting a refund. Sevan received a letter from the Russian oil corporation Lakia informing him that Iraq had reneged on an arrangement:
The Oct. 2, 2002, letter was blunt and direct. It accused the State Oil Marketing Organization (search) of “lying to us.”
“It is necessary for us to ask the immediate reimbursement of the sum of $60,000 which was sent to you from us on your request for a so-called necessary advance payment,” said the letter, written by Gazi Luguev, Lakia’s president.
Upon receipt of this letter, Sevan should have immediately notified the UN Security Council of the corruption within the Iraqi agency handling OFF, and launched an investigation of other contractual engagements. Instead, he first went to Iraq to inform them of the letter’s contents:
After getting the Lakia letter, Sevan wrote to Mohammed A. Aldouri, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations.
“I am duty bound to bring the matter to the attention of the Security Council…prior to doing so, however, I should like to receive most urgently the views and comments of the Government of Iraq,” Sevan wrote.
Aldouri issued a brief response that said Lakia’s letter “contains information that is not correct” but it did not spell out the problems with the Lakia allegations.
Fox asks the right questions in its analysis:
Why did Sevan, who’s been reluctant to publicly answer any questions about the beleaguered oil-for-food program, tell the Iraqi government about the bribe allegation against it before apparently telling the Security Council? Was he getting the facts straight, or was he, in effect, tipping off Saddam Hussein that questions might soon be asked?
Second, after Sevan eventually brought the matter to the Security Council’s attention, why did it not provoke an investigation and changes in the program especially since rumors of corruption were already widespread?
I had heard about this document on Hugh Hewitt’s show last night but am surprised at how little play it has received today. Could this be due to its source, Fox News, which now tops the ratings among cable-news programs? Or could it be that mainstream media outlets are making editorial decisions to protect the UN’s image? Whatever the reason, the public has little clue how overt and indiscreet the corruption at Turtle Bay became as more and more people cashed in.
UPDATE: Well, color me myopic … I looked around at Instapundit and didn’t see a link back to this story. That’s because Glenn linked to a more comprehensive article from Claudia Rosett, the star of UNSCAM reporters. Read the whole thing.