Sun, Nov 28, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Oil-for-food scandal over Kofi Annan's son deepens

AFP , UNITED NATIONS

Kojo Annan, son of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, was until February paid by a buyer of Iraqi oil under the UN "oil for food program," now the focus of a fraud probe, a UN spokesman said Friday.

The younger Annan had earlier been named as a former employee of the Swiss corporation Cotecna until 1998, and it was known that he was paid until 1999. However, it was not previously known that he was on the payroll until February last year, just after the scandal broke.

Spokesman Fred Eckhard said Kojo Annan's lawyer, in response to a question from a reporter from the New York Sun, had confirmed the later date.

"The lawyer confirmed that indeed it was so," Eckhard said.

"He explained that it was part of an open-ended, no-compete contract between Cotecna and Kojo, and said that they had made this information known to the Volcker commission, so it's in the hands of the Volcker commission," he said, referring to former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who head the inquiry.

"This runs counter to what we had told you, because it had been our information that those noncompete contract payments had ceased at the end of 1999. I can't explain it," the spokesman said.

"All I can say is it'll have to be now for Paul Volcker to explain it, and clearly the information is in his hands."

Under the program, which ran from December 1996 until this month, 248 companies in several nations bought Iraqi oil in contracts worth US$64.2 billion, the committee said.

In all, 3,545 companies exported goods worth US$32.9 billion to southern and central Iraq, and 941 other companies exported US$6.1 billion's worth to northern Iraq.

The oil-for-food plan allowed former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's regime to ease the burden of international sanctions by selling oil to buy humanitarian supplies.

But it mushroomed into the largest aid program in UN history, and critics say Saddam abused the program by evading sanctions and offering vouchers for oil as bribes to hundreds of officials from different countries.

Among those under suspicion of having accepted payments from Saddam in return for support against the US-led war are businessmen and politicians in France and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The newspaper said the Swiss company paid Kojo Annan around US$2,500 per month.

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