Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Other Scandals at the UN

Claudia Rosett, writing at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies website with George Russell from Fox News, reports on how the investigation into the oil for food program has turned up more corruption in the UN's everyday operations:
How widespread is the corruption at the United Nations? The multibillion-dollar Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal was just the beginning.

Now the issue is becoming the scale of corruption in the U.N.'s normal operations — and which individuals and corporations are reaping the benefits of a network of bribery and conspiracy that investigators have just begun to uncover. So far, those identities are still a mystery — but perhaps not for much longer.

Last Friday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan indicted the head of the U.N.'s own budget oversight committee, a Russian named Vladimir Kuznetsov, on charges of laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes paid by companies seeking contracts with the United Nations.

Kuznetsov, who has pleaded innocent, allegedly took a cut so openly that he had part of it deposited into the United Nations' own staff credit union in New York.

Kuznetsov's arrest is the latest twist in the scandal involving the U.N. procurement department, which was the longtime post of Alexander Yakovlev (search), another Russian U.N. official recently fingered by U.S. federal investigators.

On Aug. 8, Yakovlev pleaded guilty to federal charges of corruption, wire fraud and money laundering, after a FOX News investigation revealed his unauthorized ties with a U.N. contractor, IHC Services, and details leading to his secret offshore bank account. Federal investigators have now alleged that from 2000 on, Yakovlev did at least some of his grafting in partnership with Kuznetsov, transferring bribe money to him via the Antigua Overseas Bank in the West Indies. Allegedly the bribe money was obtained in exchange for providing inside information to companies seeking U.N. contracts.

The Yakovlev-Kuznetsov scandal joins a growing list of cases of U.N. misconduct, waste, theft and abuse. They include bribe-taking under Oil-for-Food, sexual abuse of minors by peacekeepers in West Africa, sexual and financial misconduct — including outright larceny — at U.N. offices in Geneva, and business ties between the son of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and one of the Oil-for-Food inspection firms hired with Yakovlev's input, Swiss-based Cotecna Inspection (Cotecna has denied any wrongdoing).