Thursday, August 18, 2005

SUPERB PIECE by Mark Steyn summing what we already known about the Oil for Food fraud, otherwise known as UNSCUM (though others prefer UNSCAM, but a winner's a winner!). It's even more damning when you see it one bit after another, isn't it?
How many Annans does it take to change a light bulb? Well, if the replacement light bulb's being shipped to Uday Hussein's Iraqi Olympic Committee recreational basement as part of the UN Oil-for-Food programme, there's no telling how many Annans you'll need.

You'll recall that Kofi Annan's son Kojo - who had a $30,000-a-year job but managed to find a spare quarter-million dollars sitting around to invest in a Swiss football club - has been under investigation for some time for his alleged ties to the Oil-for-Food programme. But the investigators have now broadened their sights to include Kofi's brother Kobina Annan, the Ghanaian ambassador to Morocco, who has ties to a businessman behind several of the entities involved in the scandal - one Michael Wilson, the son of the former Ghanaian ambassador to Switzerland and a childhood friend of young Kojo. Mr Wilson is currently being investigated for suspected bribery over a $50 million contract to renovate the Geneva offices of the UN World Intellectual Property Organisation.

The actual head of the Oil-for-Food racket, Kofi sidekick Benon Sevan, has resigned, having hitherto insisted that a mysterious six-figure sum in his bank account was a gift from his elderly aunt, a lady of modest means who lived in a two-room flat back in Cyprus. Paul Volcker's investigators had planned to confirm with auntie her nephew's version of events, but unfortunately she fell down an elevator shaft and died. It now seems likely that the windfall had less to do with Mr Sevan's late aunt and more to do with his soliciting of oil allocations for another company.

Meanwhile, Alexander Yakovlev, a senior procurement officer for UN "peacekeeping" missions - and, if you're on a UN mission in Africa, no, he can't fix you up with a hot-looking eight-year-old from the local village; Mr Yakovlev apparently dealt with the non-child-sex aspects of UN procuring - anyway, Mr Yakovlev salted away just shy of a million bucks in kickbacks in his account in Antigua. He's just been arrested in New York and pleaded guilty to money laundering, wire fraud, etc.

Despite the current investigations into his brother, his son, his son's best friend, his former chief of staff, his procurement officer and the executive director of the UN's biggest ever programme, the Secretary-General insists he remains committed to staying on and tackling the important work of "reforming" the UN.

Unfortunately, his Executive Co-Ordinator for United Nations Reform has also had to resign. Officially, Maurice Strong, Under-Secretary-General, godfather of the Kyoto treaty and chief UN negotiator on North Korea, resigned because he'd put his step-daughter on the payroll - she's also quit - and because of his ties to Tongsun Park, a Korean businessman charged by the US Attorney's office with taking millions of dollars from Saddam to act as an unregistered foreign agent for Iraq. Mr Park allegedly invested a million of those Saddamite greenbacks in a business of Under-Secretary-General Strong's son - a now bankrupt Canadian petroleum company.

By happy coincidence, Under-Secretary-General Strong and Kojo Annan were both appointed, on the same day, to the board of a company called Air Harbour Technologies, a business registered in the Isle of Man and whose directors also included Michael Wilson, the guy under investigation for the UN office renovation contract in Geneva. It's a small world, at least at the UN. AHT was wholly owned by the son of Sheikh Yamani, the former Saudi oil minister. Yamani Jnr was putting together a $60 million oil deal with Saddam, and seemed to think the presence of UN officials and offspring on his board might help him.

But not to worry. To demonstrate his ongoing commitment to "reform", Kofi Annan has now put his Deputy- Secretary-General, Louise Frechette, another Canadian, in charge of the "reform agenda". In a February report by Mr Volcker's committee, Mme Frechette is said to have helped Mr Sevan block efforts to bring details of the Oil-for-Food boondoggle before the Security Council.
Steyn is right when he writes next that all this giant fraud could be uncovered only because of the Iraq war. No wonder Annan was so much against it, since he know that sooner or later someone would follow the thread. We'll also understand soon why some people were shouting, writing, "punditing" NO WAR.

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