Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Immunities being waived

Early yesterday came the news that Benon Sevan, the former director of the oil-for-food programme had resigned from his nominal job with the United Nations, claiming that he was being sacrificed for political reasons.

This did not save him. The third of Paul Volcker’s reports on the scandal (there will, now, be two more) accused him of taking nearly $150,000 in bribes. It seems that the aunt did not leave him the money after all.

Under pressure from the panel, SecGen Kofi Annan (father of Kojo) lifted Mr Sevan’s diplomatic immunity and he is now open to prosecution.

Meanwhile, the panel also accused a former UN procurement officer, Alexander Yakovlev, of taking bribes amounting to $950,000 (a somewhat more substantial sum) on deals not connected with the oil-for-food programme. He did, however, also solicit a bribe on one of the contracts to do with it.

Mr Yakovlev’s immunity has been lifted as well and he was arrested on the orders of the US Southern District of New York. Mr Yakovlev immediately pleded guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. He has been released on bail and is, apparently, co-operating very fully with the authorities.

One wonders who else may go down with Mr Yakovlev on those cases not connected with the oil-for-food. What were they connected with?

But, of course, this is not the end of the story and not even the beginning of the end.

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