Before You Send the Kids Out Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF
Have a look at the web site of their Iran office, which has been soliciting donations for use in terror-sponsoring Iran and for relief for terrorist-controlled Gaza through an Iranian state-owned bank, Bank Melli. (Caveat: If you live in America, Australia or a country in the European Union, it is illegal to donate to the account listed on the UNICEF site).
Bank Melli is under sanctions by the U.S., the European Union and Australia for what might basically be called proliferation banking. The U.S. Treasury describes Bank Melli as having "facilitated numerous purchases of sensitive materials for Iran's nuclear and missile programs on behalf of UN-designated entities." Treasury adds that Bank Melli has also "provided a range of financial services to known proliferators, including letters of credit and the maintenance of accounts."
The UN itself, in its series of sanctions resolutions on Iran, called on all member states in March, 2008 to "exercise vigilance" over any ties between financial institutions on their turf and Bank Melli. More on this in my Forbes.com column this week on "UNICEF's Proliferation-Prone Banker."
Does UNICEF's American executive director, Ann Veneman -- former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture -- see any problem with this arrangement? When I asked, earlier this week, she was unavailable for comment.
This comes alongside another disturbing UN solicitation for relief funds for terrorist-controlled Gaza, which turned up earlier this year under a photo of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Ban was advertising an emergency appeal by UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). That appeal included a special account for donations from Syria -- via a Syrian Bank that's been under U.S. sanctions since 2004, the Commercial Bank of Syria (which Treasury alleges has provided banking services to terrorists, and during the days of the UN Oil-for-Food program served as a conduit for Saddam Hussein to launder a torrent of illicit loot).
Is there a pattern here? We have at least two UN agencies -- UNICEF and UNRWA -- picking some very disturbing bankers, especially in the fraught matter of transferring funds from terrorist-sponsoring Iran and Syria into Gaza, which is controlled by the terrorist group, Hamas. These are just two instances I happened to come across while looking at UN web sites which actually provided a detail or two of their banking arrangements, because they were soliciting money through the accounts. As a rule, UN banking setups are not remotely transparent, and we are left to trust UN officials who assure us they are ... trustworthy. What else is going on with the opaque and diplomatically immune banking arrangements of the vast web of UN agencies operating in the Middle East?
The UN record of accountability and due diligence is abysmal (Oil-for-Food, we were once assured -- as UN officials tried to deflect initial calls for an investigation -- was the most audited UN program ever). The UN agencies answer to governing bodies stacked with the likes of Iran, Cuba, Sudan, China, Russia and Libya. In the parade of dictators due to traipse through the General Assembly opening in New York later this month -- including Libya's Muammar Qadaffi and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- we're about to get a further display of the character of the UN. Who, these days, is keeping an eye on the UN's far-flung bank accounts?