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12.28.2005
  More Proof Of UN Oil-For-Food Fraud In Plain Sight
Congressional investigators find an Oil for Food figure hiding in plain sight.

In the matter of the shredded U.N. files, which Paul Volcker's probe into Oil for Food described as being of "potential relevance," Mr. Annan unilaterally revised the Volcker findings to say the destruction of these files "did not impede the work of the commission, so do let that go."

As for the matter of the missing Mercedes, Mr. Annan, in trying to squelch the question, actually did much to put it on the map--by way of insulting the inquiring reporter as an "overgrown schoolboy." That wayward Mercedes has now become a handy emblem of even bigger questions still swirling around the U.N.

Which brings us to Mr. Sevan, longtime U.N. staffer whom was entrusted from 1997 through 2003 the running of Oil for Food. While running Oil for Food, he took some $147,000 in payoffs from Saddam's regime, according to the Volcker committee. Mr. Sevan, through his Washington lawyer, has denied these allegations.

Mr. Sevan has not been called to account under any regime of law. Having been retained in New York by Mr. Annan after Oil for Food ended as a $1-a-year "special adviser" to assist in the inquiry into the program.

Mr. Sevan skipped town in mid-2005, shortly before Mr. Volcker's report. Since then the U.N. has said that Mr. Sevan, despite the allegations against him, is entitled to collect his U.N. pension--which a spokesman for Mr. Annan confirmed to me again this week is "untouchable."

Mr. Sevan has returned to his native Cyprus, which does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.

Mr. Sevan's deceased aunt, Bertouji Zeytountsian. By Mr. Sevan's account to Mr. Volcker, this aunt, while living in Nicosia as a retired government worker on a pension, had sent him funds totaling some $160,000 during the last four years in which he was running Oil for Food, 1999-2003. The day after the U.N. investigation into Oil for Food was announced, in March, 2004, Zeytountsian fell down an elevator shaft in her Cyprus apartment building. A few months later, she died.

He told the congressional investigators to address all questions to his lawyers, saying, "My conscience is clear."

The same Kofi Annan who had no qualms about pronouncing "illegal" the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's corrupt and murderous regime has met Mr. Volcker's findings about Benon Sevan with such bland responses as his statement last week: "We have all looked at the report and drawn the right lessons from it, and we are trying to take steps to correct the situation."

There are provisions quite likely available for taking real steps to correct the Cyprus aspect of the situation. But someone has to act, and that someone may well be Mr. Annan himself.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office opened an investigation into Mr. Sevan earlier this spring, and confirmed to me Tuesday that the investigation is continuing, but the New York prosecutor has no jurisdiction in Cyprus and can't bring charges against Mr. Sevan unless Mr. Annan lifts his diplomatic immunity. A spokeswoman for the Cypriot mission to the U.N. says that "the issue" of Mr. Sevan is "on the desk of the attorney general in Cyprus, who is studying the case."

Perhaps when Mr. Annan gets done tracking down that missing Mercedes, he could lend them a hand tracking him down.
 
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