Roger L. Simon


Most reports written by members of internal investigations, it is fair to say, are to an extent political documents with considerable jockeying among its authors about what is or is not included. Everything has implications.

The second Volcker Committee Interim Report is no exception in this regard. A rather large portion of it was taken up with the testimony of Kojo Annan’s business partner Pierre Mouselli, first revealed here. Most of the Franco-Lebanese businessman’s statements were presented as credible – indeed they were corroborated – yet at the same time Mouselli was characterized in the report as “unstable.”

Now I doubt that Mouselli is a saint or anything near it. Saints survive in the business climate of modern Nigeria for about ten minutes. But the sources of the businessman’s characterization cited in the report are indeed curious – two former Iraqi ambassadors to Nigeria under Saddam. In other words, Baathists! That’s kind of like Nuremburg investigators taking Himmler’s testimony at face value without cross examination.

But then this entire investigation appears to have been curious in the extreme.

What follows is information that comes from only one source – Mouselli’s attorney Adrian Gonzales-Maltes. So bear that in mind when you evaluate it, though I have no reason so far to disbelieve Mr. Gonzales-Maltes. Indeed, several things he has told me have already been validated by the report itself. (Also worth noting is the irony that the lawyer, like all parts of this investigation, is being paid out of the Iraqi Oil-for-Food fund.)

The committee took the better part of a year to locate Pierre Mouselli, although Kojo’s former business partner was not in hiding and well-known in Lagos where his brother is known as the Nigerian Donald Trump. He apparently readily agreed to talk with them, once they provided him with a lawyer. The interviews ensued in Paris where Mouselli now resides. He is not likely to return to Nigeria. The reasons for that will be clear in the next paragraphs.

The committee properly asked for documentation for his statements, but the “unstable” Mouselli could only provide a few (notably the visa to Iraq that I referred to in my earlier post). Many of his other documents, including his all-important contract with Cotecna, were with Mouselli’s lawyer in Lagos. And, according to Mouselli, the lawyer would not part with them.

The committee investigators were perplexed and immediately a phone call was put through to the lawyer in Nigeria. But that lawyer still refused to give up the relevant documents. In front of the three attorneys from the Volcker committee, Gonzalez-Maltes and Mouselli, the Nigerian lawyer explained his reluctance, or should I say fear, about producing Mouselli’s file this way over the phone: “I would be, as you Americans say, collateral damage.”

To this day, the documents remain with the lawyer in Lagos.

I know this sounds like a detective story and I am a detective story writer. But this is the way the discussion was reported to me. But it should be clear that in Nigeria people do not want to get involved in a situation that may run afoul of the Secretary General. Although a Ghanaian by birth, he is a national hero there as well. And for good… and perhaps now sad… reasons.

To my knowledge the committee has never gone to Nigeria, or anywhere in the developing world, to pursue its investigation. They have restricted themselves to the more comfortable venues of New York, Paris, London and Geneva. But the heart of Africa and the Middle East is where the information on Oil-for-Food can be found.

So coming around to my introductory paragraph, there is also some reason to believe that there was a degree of dissension within the committee. Although several memos were discussed in its interim report – including the controversial one about mysterious “machinery” being put in place – omitted from the report, despite discussion of it between lawyers on both sides, was an even more mysterious memo. That memo asks if, during Kojo’s business dealings, his “main mentor” had been contacted. The identity of the “main mentor” is not specified. I have not seen this memo. But I would like to.

I would conclude by writing that, despite the foregoing, I do not believe that Kofi Annan is necessarily an evil man, or even a bad one. He is just the product of a system that overwhelmed him, one that he is particularly poorly placed to reform.