December 27, 2005

Quagmire Of Corruption

The Times of London’s James Bone comments on an incident in which U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan went off on him for asking a perfectly straightforward question whose honest answer might have implicated both Kofi and his Oil For Food profiteering, general purpose sleazeball son, Kojo, in a simple act of fraud by means of misuse of the elder Annan’s diplomatic U.N. status.

It was with some amusement that I found myself the target of a decidedly undiplomatic tirade by the U.N. chief at a news conference last week. The usually mild Mr. Annan erupted in an ad hominem attack, calling me “cheeky” and belittling me as an “overgrown schoolboy.” Although I have covered the U.N. in minute detail for The Times of London since 1988, and have known Mr. Annan for almost all that time, he suggested I was not a “serious journalist.”

The cause of Mr. Annan’s ire was a question I put to him about a Mercedes car that his son Kojo had imported into Ghana (and which cannot, now, be traced). The facts indicate that Kojo had bought the car in his father’s name, thereby obtaining a diplomatic discount and a tax exemption totaling more than $20,000. The question about the car — to which Mr. Annan again refused to give a satisfactory answer — is part of the wider probe into his role in the U.N.’s Oil for Food scandal. Despite months of investigation, important questions about the integrity of public officials remain unanswered. If we are serious about U.N. reform — as Mr. Annan claims to be — they must be resolved.

It is a time-honored tradition at the U.N. to bury a scandal by conducting an inadequate inquiry and then declaring the matter closed. Mr. Annan did precisely that when news first broke in January 1999 of his son’s involvement with a Swiss firm that won a U.N. contract in Iraq.

Read Bone’s entire article here.

by @ 9:26 am. Filed under The United Nations
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