Richard North, 03/09/2005  

This is becoming an every-day event: SecGen Kofi Annan (father of Kojo) has had to lift diplomatic immunity again, in order to give the FBI a free hand to arrest another UN diplomat.

This one is another Russian, Vladimir Kuznetsov. As the Washington Times puts it:
“The FBI arrested Vladimir Kuznetsov Thursday night at his Bronx home. He is accused by the Justice Department of laundering money that was paid to a U.N. procurement officer who has admitted seeking bribes in exchange for inside information on the oil-for-food program and other U.N. missions.”
The procurement officer in question, Alexander Yakovlev, arrested some months ago, has been, as they say, singing like a canary. He agreed to co-operate with the FBI immediately, and further arrests have been expected since then. Mr Kuznetsov’s is the first one.

Mr Kuznetsov has worked in various budget-related positions at the UN and is or, rather, was the “chairman of the powerful Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, or ACABQ, a 16-member body that reviews and amends the secretary-general's budget proposal before it goes to the full General Assembly”.

The Russians, on the other hand, seem to be unable to make up their minds whether they should lift his diplomatic immunity or whether he actually has such an immunity. According to UN rules the chairman of that particular committee is its only member with immunity (even though it has now been lifted).

This particular scam, which resulted in Mr Kuznetsov allegedly finding out about the fraudulent scheme that involved kick-backs and money laundering and him taking a share of the “profits” in order to pay the money into his own off-shore company, called Nikal Ltd with accounts in an Antiguan bank.

The whole affair was uncovered by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services, or OIOS, as part of an overall investigation into the procurement department. The Independent Inquiry Committee under Paul Volcker has said it was unaware of Mr Kuznetsov’s involvement.

One wonders whether another committee or inquiry might uncover some other interesting activity.

Mr Kuznetsov has pleaded not guilty. Mr Yakovlev is not named in the indictment, though there are clear references to him.


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