This blog has new information from sources close to the investigation of the United Nations Oil-for-Food Scandal by Paul Volcker’s Independent Inquiry Committee. After some delay, the committee is releasing its preliminary results at noon Tuesday. This report may reveal, among other things, startling information tending to indicate Secretary General Kofi Annan had more knowledge of, or was closer to, his son Kojo’s activities with Cotecna – the company whose role in the scandal seems so pervasive – than previously thought.
The committee has been interviewing Pierre Mouselli, a businessman in Paris who was Kojo’s business partner. Their relationship started in 1998 when then 45-year old Mouselli met young Kojo (then 23) at a Bastille Day Party in the French Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria. Mouselli, who has been a cooperative witness and is not under investigation himself, has told the committee numerous interesting things, which deserved to be followed up, They include:
1. Previously unrevealed private meetings between Kojo and two separate Iraqi Ambassadors to Nigeria, arranged by Mouselli in or about August 1998. At these meetings Kojo presented the business card of Cotecna, which subsequently won the lucrative oil inspection contract for Oil-for-Food. Cotecna had previously been blacklisted from doing business in Nigeria for alleged arms trafficking.
2. A trip in September 1998 by Mouselli and Kojo to the Non-Aligned Nations Movement Conference in Durban, South Africa during which they traveled with the Secretary General’s entourage and later had a private lunch with Kofi Annan. In Mouselli’s view, the purpose of the lunch was to make the Secretary General aware of the various business dealings in which he and Kojo were engaged, in order to get the Secretary General’s “blessing”. It was Mouselli’s understanding at the time that Kojo had previously discussed the Iraqi Embassy visits with his father, though he does not recall specific statements regarding the UN inspection contracts.
3. Early Autumn 2002. The Iraqi Ambassador to Nigeria makes a surprise call to Mouselli inquiring of the whereabouts of Kojo (at this point Mouselli and Kojo were not in close contact). Mouselli goes to the Iraqi Embassy where he is informed by the Ambassador that we (the Iraqis) have done favors for Kojo in the past and now need to see him. The Iraqis do not specify what these favors were or what they needed from Kojo, but offer Mouselli a visa to come to Baghdad for further discussion. Mouselli picks up the visa in Paris but does not go to Iraq because of the increasingly violent situation.
Mouselli appears to be reliable. I have spoken to him briefly on the phone in Paris and at some length with his attorney Adrian Gonzalez-Maltes. (Interestingly, witnesses and their lawyers seem not to be under confidentiality agreements in this investigation, possibly because there is no governing body to enforce them.)
Mouselli’s testimony contains considerably more interesting material, which I will detail in subsequent reports or in tandem with Claudia Rosett with whom I have been in contact on this story. The issues his testimony raises are obviously troubling and I look forward to reading the committee report on Tuesday, which will probably flesh them out from other directions.