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Monthly Archives: January 2007

Uh-Oh. Shades of Kojo?

January 29th, 2007 - 11:30 pm

Maybe the UN should just make it official, set up a Conflicts-of-Interest-R-Us program, and staff it with all the sons, daughters, wives, husbands, uncles, aunts, cousins and landlords of high-level officials at Turtle Bay.

In what certainly qualifies as a step forward from the days of Kofi Annan, the new secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, on Friday became — as far as I know — the first UN official to actually disclose to the public his filled-in UN financial “disclosure” form. You can read it here. But Ban’s office then took half a step back. Ban notes on his form that he has a daughter and son-in-law, Ban Hyun Hee and Siddarth Chatterjee, working for UNICEF in Nairobi. When the online editor of The New York Sun, Daniel Freedman, phoned Ban’s office for details such as what Ban’s kin are doing for UNICEF, he was told the UN “can’t give out details.”

As Freedman points out, that is more than a little disquieting, especially after the Kojo experience, involving Oil-for-Food business and a Mercedes Benz — never yet fully explained.

As top officer at the UN, Ban is entrusted with setting the standards for a $20 billion global system that has proven so prolifically corrupt it gets hard to keep track of the scandals. One of the best antidotes is daylight. Ban was already required to file a financial disclosure form in his previous incarnation as a public official in South Korea. It’s good he has been willing to have the basic information translated into English and reviewed by Price Waterhouse. But that shouldn’t translate into a license to brush off good questions, especially with the bland and brief format of the UN’s financial questionnaires. UNICEF, where his daughter and son-in-law work, was one of the UN agencies that double-dipped under Oil-for-Food, and is now among the agencies in trouble over the Cash for Kim scandal in North Korea. It’s going to be hard enough cleaning that up, without throwing family ties into the mix. What Ban should be doing now is not brushing off The New York Sun, but answering the questions and calling for the rest of his senior staff to disclose and do the same.

The UN’s BOA Constrictor?

January 26th, 2007 - 5:19 pm

“BOA” at the UN stands for “Board of Auditors,” which under normal circumstances might be a code phrase for the stuff of eye-glazing tedium beyond compare. But in the UN universe of evasions and cover-ups, audits have their thrills. In recent years, UN audits of various kinds –depending on who does them, and who gets hold of them — have in some cases served as windows on a UN wonder-world of abuse, bribery and fraud; or in other cases, one more way of smothering scandal.

Just such a titanic struggle is now being played out at the UN in the context of the latest scandal, involving Cash for North Korea’s Kim Jong Il. Having first promised last Friday a no-holds barred, outside audit of the entire UN system, the UN’s new Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has since been backing off into what is now looking like Ban’s first cover-up.

Here, for the truly intrepid, is a link to the UN summary of a press conference today by UN Controller Warren Sach, in which reporters were attempting the Mission Almost Impossible of trying to figure out what’s really going on. For anyone confused about who will end up auditing who, and when and how, the bottom-line is that the UN has quite possibly arrived at the point where whatever else Ban does, a thorough, outside and entirely indepent audit of the entire auditing UN auditing system(s) would be a good idea… Oh, and just in case you missed it, the AP has a story on the latest UN scandal out of World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.

Jimmy Carter, Please Tell Us About the Cash

January 23rd, 2007 - 5:07 pm

Former President Carter took his anti-Israel roadshow to Brandeis University today, refusing to debate Alan Dershowitz and agreeing to respond to students only via a “discussion” responding to 15 pre-selected questions.

We have already heard far too much from Carter about his notions regarding the Middle East. What we have not heard from him is an explanation of why, exactly, he is so comfortable with the Carter Center — his main base of operations — taking millions from places such as Saudi Arabia. Or just how many millions that sort of donor base really accounts for.

Earlier this month, I wrote an article for National Review, exploring some of the questions raised in a number of articles by other analysts and reporter querying the Carter Center’s Middle Eastern funding. My piece, “The Question of Carter’s Cash,” is now linked online on NRO. Back on Jan. 10, I sent a list of follow-up questions to the Carter Center, asking, again, for details on some of the money; a reasonable request, one might think, especially in view of the Carter Center’s praise of its own operations to promote transparency for others. They got the questions. But no answer yet.

Kim Jong Il Prefers the Euro

January 22nd, 2007 - 2:36 pm

Scratch those latest allegations about the UN’s Dollars for Dictators program in North Korea. Kim Jong Il prefers the Euro. More on that, and the UN’s Food for Nukes program in North Korea, in my article today for Fox News.

Would You Give Money to Kim Jong Il?

January 19th, 2007 - 10:39 pm

Yes, on top of Oil-for-Fraud, Sex-for-Food, the car for Kojo, the $500,000 cash prize for Kofi, the tyrant-packed Human Rights Council, and other ventures of this kind, the UN now has a burgeoning scandal over the UN Development Program’s operations in nuclear-happy North Korea. Scroll down to the “related video” inside this UNDP link to watch Ad Melkert, an official of the UN Development Program, explaining to the press why pouring money without adequate oversight into Pyongyang is just dandy. Excerpt: “The assurance that no money may have gone to nuclear programs we derive from the audits that have been put in place in recent years.”

What’s wrong with that statement:

1) Money is fungible. Even food aid is fungible.

2) Shades of Oil-for-Food, the audits of this UN program have been so secret that when the U.S. government asked to see them, UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis first said no. When U.S. diplomat Mark Wallace pressed for access, the UNDP finally let U.S. officials look at the audits and take notes at UNDP headquarters — but wouldn’t give them copies. What they saw was anything but reassuring.

So, would you give money for Melkert and his colleagues at the UNDP? If you’re a U.S. taxpayer, you already do — out of the more than $5.3 billion per year the U.S. currently lavishes on the UN system, hundreds of millions go to the UNDP, which in turn pours millions into North Korea.

This is aid that helps sustain the Pyongyang regime, and has done so for years. It is exactly the kind of UN development that worried me back in 1991, when I made a visit to Pyongyangand came away convinced that giving North Korea a seat at the UN was not going to work out well. (Back then, newly democratic South Korea was of much the same opinion. That was before the U.S., at the behest of Jimmy Carter, and under the leadership of Bill Clinton, opened the aid spigot to Kim in exchange for a nuclear “freeze” on which Pyongyang — who’d'a thought? — in short order began to cheat).

P.S. North Korea is one of 36 countries sitting on the UNDP’s executive board, and according to the correspondence released Friday by the U.S. Mission, the UN is paying more than $35,000 for three North Korean officials to fly business class, roundtrip from Pyongyang to New York, to attend meetings including that of the UNDP board this coming week. After U.S. criticism, UNDP officials have said they will change that policy going forward, and leave it to member states to pay for such travel. OK, that’s a small step in the right direction. But what is North Korea doing on the UNDP board at all?

Benon Sevan on Elba

January 17th, 2007 - 11:17 am

… Actually, he’s on Cyprus. But with the indictment handed down yesterday in a New York federal court, the self-imposed exile of the former director of the UN Oil-for-Food empire is starting to get a lot more interesting. More in my column today on NRO.

(The photo shows the building in Nicosia where Sevan was living as of March, 2006, in the apartment on the near side, top floor).

Sevan, whom I called this morning on his Cyprus cell phone, first said he was in traffic and couldn’t talk till he got home — presumably to his apartment on Cyprus. Then he would say nothing except: “Talk to my lawyer.”

Sevan’s lawyer has now sent out a statement, saying that Sevan is innocent, and blaming — what else? — not the UN, but the U.S. In fact, the anti-American language here sounds so much like that of assorted top UN officials of recent times, including Kofi Annan and his former deputy, Mark Malloch Brown, that one might almost think Sevan was still working for the UN.

Come to think of it, Annan during part of the Oil-for-Food investigation not only kept Sevan on staff, with the accompanying perks, as a $1-per-year “special adviser,” but also had the UN paying his legal fees. Shortly after that came to an end, Sevan slipped back to Cyprus, where he has since been living on full UN pension.

Benon Sevan Indicted

January 16th, 2007 - 11:11 am

Concerning the global extravaganza of graft that was the United Nations Oil-for-Food program, Kofi Annan’s line was to blame everyone but the UN itself. “If there was a scandal,” was how he tried to spin it when asked about corruption in his own secretariat. Apparently, U.S. federal prosecutors see it differently. This morning, jointly with the Manhattan DA’s office, they announced the indictment in New York’s Southern District of Annan’s handpicked head of the former Oil-for-Food program, Benon Sevan, on charges of bribery and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Also charged is Ephraim Nadler (a.k.a. “Fred Nadler”), a brother-in-law of former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. If that sounds like the UN might be prone to problems at the top, keep going. The web of fathers-sons-sisters-brothers-and-wives is stunning; and there is of course the mystery of the death of Benon Sevan’s pensioner aunt, whom Sevan claimed was the source of the $160,000 that the Feds allege he took in Oil-for-Food pay-offs, and who perished after falling into the elevator shaft of her Cyprus apartment block, just as Oil-for-Food investigations were taking shape in early 2004.

Sevan, who denies any wrong-doing, slipped out of New York in 2005, but has been living in plain sight on Cyprus, where I found him settled into his late aunt’s penthouse apartment when I paid a surprise visit there last March.

This indictment comes nine years after Sevan allegedly took his first payoff on Oil-for-Food deals, and follows years in which top UN officials denied, stonewalled, dismissed and in some cases lied about the extent of abuse within the UN itself. Billions in taxpayer dollars, as well as enormous amounts of trust, are lavished on this institution by our own government. The question today is not only whether Sevan, now facing an Interpol warrant, might decide to cooperate with the laws of the U.S., where — while working at UN headquarters in New York — he is alleged to have banked stacks of Iraq-begotten cash. The larger questions are why Annan and his top aides and advisers felt they could with impunity deflect blame from their own failings and from the UN itself, and why, apart from perhaps Sevan, they have gotten away with it.

Turning to the protests over Jimmy Carter’s take-donations-from-the-Saudis and slam-Israel approach to Middle East politics, there are fresh defections today from the Carter Center, where the founder of the Middle East program, Kenneth Stein, resigned last month in protest over Carter’s book: “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” and an Emory University anthropologist, Melvin Konner, refused to serve on an advisory group to Carter, accusing him of a “callous disregard for the relevant facts of history,” and of setting back, rather than advancing the debate. Today, 14 members of the Carter Center’s Board of Councilors resigned, sending Carter a letter in which they accused him of “malicious advocacy” and wrote “we can no longer endorse your strident and uncompromising position.”

If Carter won’t recant, maybe he can at least issue a revised edition of his book, including a full and detailed list of his Carter Center’s sources of funding.

Interrupting Iran

January 11th, 2007 - 10:02 am

Looks like we’ve dodged the Iraq-Study-Group Baker bullet — at least for now. The best news out of the President’s speech Wednesday night is that we are not going to pin our strategy in Iraq on “talking” to Syria and Iran. Bush spelled out that “These two regimes are using their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

Of course, Iran’s support efforts are not confined to doing murder in Iraq, or to stirring up war in the Middle East. Leaving his cohorts to tend the spinning centrifuges for a few days, Iran’s President Ahmadinejad jets off Friday on his second trip in four months to our backyard — planning to drop in on three Latin American countries. Ahmadinejad will visit Ecuador, Nicaragua and kick off this tour in Venezuela, where his best buddy, Islamic Republic medal-winner Hugo Chavez, promising “socialism or death” is now on the way to setting himself up as president-for-life.

Trying from within Iraq’s borders to interrupt Iran ‘s flow of lethal “support” is going to be hugely difficult, and still won’t stop Iran’s growing outreach program to the Islamic Republic’s pals in Latin America, neither will it stop Iran’s backing of Hezbollah’s takeover bid in Lebanon, nor will it stop the Iranian bomb program that will translate into a nuclear extortion racket in the Gulf — and quite possibly worse. Iran’s plans need disrupting all right, not chiefly in Iraq, but at the source — in Tehran.