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UN oil-for-food program: scams R us: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his son Kojo are at the center of an enormous scandal involving Saddam Hussein's $100 billion oil-for-food program.

The June 30 deadline is rapidly approaching. On that date, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority will relinquish control of Iraq to the United Nations. Of course, tens of thousands of U.S. troops will remain in place to assist the global body in its latest venture in "nation building." And since it may be some time before the Iraqis are allowed to hold elections and form a permanent government, the UN will be in charge of billions of dollars (mostly provided by U.S. taxpayers) in transition funds. Even after an Iraqi constitution is adopted and a new government is installed, the UN is expected to stay on for many years to oversee the reconstruction of Iraq's infrastructure--again, largely at U.S. taxpayer expense.

Just as Iraq is being readied for UN stewardship in Baghdad, a mammoth scandal is breaking that threatens to expose the rampant corruption and criminal activity in the UN's administration of Iraq's oil-for-food program between 1996 and 2003. Evidence that has been emerging from Saddam Hussein's captured records implicates top UN officials, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UN Assistant Secretary-General Benon V. Sevan, in an enormous racket that skimmed billions of dollars from funds that were supposed to be for humanitarian aid. The skimmed billions were instead funneled into private bank accounts.

UN Gravy Train

At the center of the latest UN corruption cesspool are Kofi Annan's hand-picked director of the oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan, and Annan's son, Kojo Annan. Documents surfacing in Iraq indicate that Sevan and the younger Annan profited handsomely from the bribe-riddled program, while helping Saddam Hussein launder billions of dollars in oil money to pay for weapons and his lavish lifestyle. Meanwhile, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has protected Sevan and Annan Jr. with repeated coverups and stonewalling.

As with so many other UN swindles, the oil-for-food gravy train was sold to the world under an appeal to compassion. Iraqi civilians were suffering under the trade embargo imposed by the world against Saddam Hussein's regime. The embargo did not impose any personal hardship on Hussein, of course, who continued to enjoy a luxurious existence rivaling the storied wealth of the Babylonian kings of old.

In 1995, the compassionate kleptocrats at the United Nations passed Resolution 986, authorizing the Secretariat to set up the oil-for-food program for the "equitable distribution of humanitarian relief." Under the UN program, Saddam was allowed to sell oil to earn funds for food and medicine, for removing land mines, and for building hospitals, schools and water treatment plants. Unfortunately, very little of the oil-for-food funds actually went to these projects to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people. Instead, oil-for-food turned into a sweetheart deal between Saddam, the UN kleptocracy and hundreds of contractors, mostly from France, Russia and China.

Does this help explain why these countries on the UN Security Council were so indulgent toward Saddam and so opposed to his removal? Does it also offer an explanation for Kofi Annan's reluctance to oust the Thief of Baghdad? It would seem so. Kofi Annan's son Kojo is a consultant for Cotecna Inspection SA, a Swiss-based company that won the UN contract to inspect all oil-for-food shipments into Iraq. Cotecna, Kojo, Kofi and Benon Sevan are now all prime suspects in the unfolding scandal. But the enormity of the embezzlement and the length of time over which it occurred points toward the involvement of hundreds of top UN officials. When faced with allegations in February that officials in the highest echelons of the UN were involved in the criminal enterprise, the senior Annan stated: "If there is evidence, we would investigate it very seriously."

On the UN's "Daily Briefing" website for March 22, the secretary-general offered a similar assurance in response to a question about whether he was prepared to appoint a commission to investigate the corrupt practices. Mr. Annan said:
 Yes, I would hope to be able to get a
 team, a group together, to do it. It's a
 very complex issue, and I hope once
 they have been able to do their work
 it would be very clear who was responsible
 for what, and where does
 blame lie. I know there is a lot that is
 being dumped on the Secretariat,
 which is not fair. I am not saying that
 the Secretariat may not have made
 some mistakes, but I think there are
 lots of issues, and the group that we
 put together should be able to clarify.

Yes, it is such a complex issue. And Secretary-General Annan and the poor folks at the UN have been so busy assisting the Earth's downtrodden that they simply have not been able to complete their audits of the oil-for-food fiasco. That is the story from the UN spinmeisters and Annan's defenders in the media. But Kofi Annan has not been forthcoming with records from BNP Paribas, the French bank that handled much of the oil-for-food funding. Nor has he been willing to share documents from the UN's internal audit of the program with independent auditors or media critics. Little wonder, since a thorough audit might show son Kojo and Sevan to be world-class thieves.

And the secretary-general is far from pristine clean himself. According to various reports, Kofi Annan personally approved oil-for-food funds for some of Saddam's projects that definitely had nothing to do with the humanitarian aid permitted by Resolution 986 or any of the subsequent UN resolutions. Take, for instance, the $50 million Annan approved for Saddam's radio and TV propaganda broadcasting system, or the $20 million for Saddam's son, Uday Hussein, for a spectacular Olympic sport complex.

Transparent Corruption

Was Secretary-General Annan completely in the dark concerning these extravagant abuses of oil-for-food? "I don't think that's plausible," says Claude Hankes-Drielsma, an adviser/auditor for the Iraqi Governing Council.

Hankes-Drielsma obviously has a gift for understatement. The scandal surrounding oil-for-food has been building for the past year, yet Annan has repeatedly stalled and stonewalled, refusing to release documents sought by independent auditors and critics of the program. This, of course, runs completely contrary to Annan's regular sermons on the need for absolute "transparency" in government to protect against corruption. Consider, for instance, his address to the UN's 1999 International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Durban, South Africa.

"At the end of the twentieth century," Annan told the IACC conferees, "there are in fact few problems more global than corruption. Fighting graft in one country means better business for all countries." The man who is now neck deep in one of the biggest graft schemes in history told the global assembly that "in all countries--whatever their cultural differences--good governance and integrity require the rule of law, effective state institutions, transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs...." (Emphasis added.)

Benon Sevan, Kofi Annan's assistant who headed the thoroughly corrupt oil-for-food program, is attempting to escape scrutiny through early retirement. In a March 11 story, Wall Street Journal reporter Therese Raphael wrote:
 Mr. Sevan's name appears on a list of
 individuals, companies and organizations
 that allegedly received oil allocations
 or vouchers from Saddam that
 could then be sold via middlemen for
 a significant markup. The list, compiled
 in Arabic from documents uncovered
 in Iraq's oil ministry, included
 many of Saddam's nearest and
 dearest from some 50 countries, including
 the PLO, pro-Saddam British
 MP George Galloway, and French
 politician Charles Pasqua. (Messrs.
 Galloway and Pasqua have denied receiving
 anything from Saddam.) According
 to the list, first published by
 the Iraqi daily Al Mada in January,
 Mr. Sevan was another beneficiary,
 via a company in Panama known as
 Africa Middle East Petroleum Co.
 Ltd. (AMEP)....

Sevan has not appeared in public to dispute these and similar charges, but did issue a denial in response to an earlier article by Raphael. "There is absolutely no substance to the allegations ... that I had received oil or oil monies from the former Iraqi regime," he said through a spokesman. "Those making the allegations should come forward and provide the necessary documentary evidence." But Mr. Sevan, apparently, does not intend to wait around for that to happen; the career UN globocrat has been on vacation for the past couple months, and, according to UN spokesmen, he is taking an early retirement.

It is bad enough that the gigantic fraud involved in the UN-administered oil-for-food program robbed Iraqi and Kurdish children of life-saving food and medicine and lined the pockets of UN kleptocrats. Well did Isaiah say, "ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses ... [ye] grind the faces of the poor" (Isaiah 3:14-15). But there may be much more to concern us as well. According to some of the documents that have surfaced, large sums of money from the program went to the Baathist Party militants and the terrorists who have been murdering and wounding U.S. soldiers in Iraq. In fact, with billions of dollars still unaccounted for, those funds may continue to supply attacks on American troops for a long time to come. Kofi Annan and his underlings at the UN den of corruption on New York's East River must be held accountable, but no internal UN audit or investigation will ever expose this global cesspool of graft and terror. Only a no-holds-barred investigation by the U.S. Congress will get to the bottom of this. Can we demand anything less?
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Title Annotation:United Nations
Author:Jasper, William F.
Publication:The New American
Date:Apr 19, 2004
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