The Rosett Report

Benon Sevan Watch: An Oil-for-Food Letter-to-Cyprus

It wouldn’t be unilateralism if the UN Secretariat actually gave a hoot about seeing justice done. But in the case of Benon Sevan, it’s tempting to conclude that the only folks who care about extensively documented allegations of corruption in the top tiers of the UN are a handful of U.S. congressmen, the Feds and maybe a couple of journalists.

Alleged by the UN’s own “independent inquiry” to have taken pay-offs on Oil-for-Food deals, and indicted last month in the U.S. on the same grounds, the former head of the UN’s Oil-for-Food program, Benon Sevan is still at large on Cyprus. There, as a Cypriot citizen, Sevan — who denies any wrong-doing — is safe from U.S. extradition. He has been back there for almost two years now, on full UN pension, and has never had to face questions in court. The Cypriot authorities have shown no sign of opening an investigation.

But at least two members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Chairman Tom Lantos (Democrat) and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican), think it’s still worth asking that justice be done. They’ve just sent a joint letter to the Ambassador of Cyprus to the U.S., Andreas Kakouris, reminding him of Sevan’s indictment, and noting that “The accession of Cyprus to the European Union was welcomed by many as heralding a new era of international cooperation by your country.” In that context, they hope the government of Cyprus “will undertake robust efforts to investigate, locate, and extradite Mr. Sevan, so that he may be fairly tried for his alleged violations of United States law and international confidence.” You can read the full letter here.

(It would not be hard to locate Sevan, who has been living openly in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia; as for the investigating, there are stacks of documents already, including the reports of Volcker’s inquiry; records of Sen. Norm Coleman’s subcommittee; and it is quite possible that U.S. prosecutors would be helpful as well).

I would like to link to a lot more open letters like the one just sent by Ros-Lehtinen and Lantos, all urgently asking that Sevan face justice, but written by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon; President Bush; and the assorted eminences of the European Union. But I can’t do that, for the glaring reason that they haven’t written any such letters. … UN integrity? Big shrug.