Roger L. Simon

You will be relieved. The elevator has been fixed...

122805sevan.jpg You remember – the one in which former Oil-for-Food head Benon Sevan’s aunt had the unfortunate accident. In her latest WSJ opinion piece, Claudia tells us for the incredible visit by Hyde Committee investigators to Cyrprus where they met Mr. Sevan himslef. [Time to go back to mystery writing.-ed. You couldn’t make anything like this up. You don’t have to.]

But to such sketchy accounts, investigators for Rep. Henry Hyde’s International Relations Committee are now prepared to add some illuminating details–starting with their encounter with Mr. Sevan himself, less than three months ago, in Cyprus. As it happens, they were not expecting to find Mr. Sevan in person. They went to Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, trying to track down details of the case, including the fate of Mr. Sevan’s deceased aunt, Bertouji Zeytountsian. By Mr. Sevan’s account to Mr. Volcker, this aunt, while living in Nicosia as a retired government worker on a pension, had sent him funds totaling some $160,000 during the last four years in which he was running Oil for Food, 1999-2003. The day after the U.N. investigation into Oil for Food was announced, in March, 2004, Zeytountsian fell down an elevator shaft in her Cyprus apartment building. A few months later, she died.

Mr. Hyde’s investigators decided while in Nicosia to have a look at the elevator shaft. On Oct. 14, a Cypriot police official showed them the way to the building. There, printed plainly on a mailbox at the entrance to the apartment block, was the name not of Mr. Sevan’s aunt, but of Benon Sevan himself. After shooting the picture shown nearby, the investigators went up to the eighth-floor apartment where the aunt had lived. They knocked, and the door opened.

There stood Benon Sevan. As one of the investigators describes it, Mr. Sevan came to the door “in shorts, no shirt, and sandals, smoking a cigar.” Apparently everyone was surprised to come thus face-to-face. Mr. Sevan was polite but did not invite them in. They chatted across the threshold. He told the congressional investigators to address all questions to his lawyers, saying, “My conscience is clear.”

The investigators turned to go, and, as one of them recounts, as they headed for the stairs, Mr. Sevan told them, “You can take the elevator. It’s fixed now.”

Glad to hear it.