UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan held a press conference this morning at which a Los Angeles Times reporter tweaked him briefly “About that Mercedes… .”
To which Kofi Annan, before moving right along, replied, “I’ll give you a ride.”
There are reasons to wonder, as I’ve just been doing in a column for National Review Online, whether Kofi has already taken all of us for a ride.
The vehicle involved is the Mercedes on which Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo Annan, saved himself more than $20,000 in 1998 by buying and shipping the car to Ghana under use of the name and UN privileges of his father, Secretary-General Kofi Annan. News of this did not surface until September, 2005, at which point, with Times of London reporter James Bone in the lead, the press began asking questions. The UN stonewalled for months, and Kofi Annan finally blew up at Bone during a televised press conference last December. In January, Kojo Annan — via his lawyer — offered to pay the government of Ghana any customs duties owed on the Mercedes; the lawyer added that the car had been wrecked in an accident in late 2005, in Nigeria. With many questions still unanswered, but Kofi Annan saying the whole thing had nothing to do with the UN, and he considered the matter closed, the story faded from the news.
But how did this Mercedes, which arrived in Africa in the name of the UN Secretary-General, get from Ghana to Nigeria? UN documents show that the UN country representative in Ghana applied to register the car in the name of the UN Secretary-General. If the car changed hands after reaching Ghana in Kofi Annan’s name in 1998, are we to believe there was no UN record? If it crossed international borders, did it do so while registered to the Secretary-General? Has anyone seen an accident report? Has anyone seen this car?
Down the ages, there have been some mysteries so deep, so elemental, that they are destined never to be solved. But before we consign to that category the African journey of the Annan Mercedes, maybe someone out there can yet divine a few more more clues? Here are the papers released to the press this past January by Kojo Annan’s lawyer. Can anyone — in the words of an inspired headline published last December in The New York Sun, “Follow that Car” — ?