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U.N. official faces disciplinary action

Sevan undermined the integrity of the U.N., report reveals

U.N. official faces disciplinary action

The United Nations vowed to discipline two officials implicated in a report that detailed conflicts of interest and flawed management in the U.N. oil-for-food program, as the man leading the investigation warned there were plenty more revelations to come.
The interim report, released Thursday, zeroed in on the chief of the oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan, saying Saddam Hussein's regime awarded oil allocations in his name to a trading company between 1998 and 2001.
It said Sevan had "seriously undermined the integrity of the United Nations" and suggested he may have received kickbacks, possibly using an aunt to mask his trail.
Based on the report, Secretary-General Kofi Annan will discipline Sevan and another U.N. official, Joseph Stephanides, who may have "tainted" bidding for an oil-for-food contract, said Mark Malloch Brown, Annan's chief of staff.
The US$60-billion oil-for-food program ran from December 1996 to November 2003 and allowed Iraq, which was bound by sanctions, to sell oil to buy humanitarian supplies. But it allegedly became a way for Saddam to curry favor and push to end sanctions - by awarding former government officials, activists, U.N. officials and journalists vouchers for Iraqi oil that could then be resold at a profit.
Allegations that the United Nations was enmeshed in corrupt practices in the program led Annan to appoint former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to investigate, and several U.S. congressional teams also are looking into it.
Volcker told The Associated Press that the investigation found no "systematic mismanagement" of the oil-for-food program, but said there were serious problems.
He told AP he hoped his report, which detailed investigations into U.N. administrative expenses, internal audits and procurement, would begin to answer some of the serious questions raised by critics of the United Nations.
"There are obviously problems in the institution and we have identified some of them," he said. "But the end of this should be a reformed and stronger U.N., because I believe - and I know the other committee members believe - that the U.N. has an important role to play but it cannot be effective if it is under suspicion all of the time."
Volcker's investigators are still looking at Annan and his son, Kojo, who had been employed by a Swiss company, Cotecna Inspection SA, which had a U.N. contract to certify deals under the oil-for-food program. Volcker is expected to issue a report on that investigation later this winter.
Additional wrongdoing could be exposed when Volcker's commission releases a final report by midyear.
Investigators are still looking into the actions of the U.N. Security Council, which authorized and monitored the oil-for-food program, as well as the performance of U.N. contractors and the activities of U.N. agencies in the field in Iraq.
"It is not the whole story by a long shot," Volcker said at a news conference to release the report.
Despite Sevan's claims that he never recommended any companies for oil vouchers, Volcker's Independent Inquiry Committee said it had evidence that Sevan asked Iraq to give a small Swiss-based oil company, African Middle East Petroleum Co. Ltd. Inc. the opportunity to buy oil. The company, known as AMEP, received the allocations and earned US$1.5 million from them.
The report did not say Sevan received kickbacks, but said it was suspicious of US$160,000 he said he received from his aunt in his native Cyprus from 1999-2003. The report questioned this "unexplained wealth," noting that his aunt, who recently died, was a retired Cyprus government photographer living on a modest pension.
The report said Sevan's solicitations on AMEP's behalf "presented a grave and continuing conflict of interest, were ethically improper, and seriously undermined the integrity of the United Nations."


Updated : 2021-10-20 03:48 GMT+08:00