Friday, June 8, 2007

Update: UN Corruption Prosecutions

Sanjaya Bahel, a former UN procurement supervisor, was convicted yesterday of fraud and corruption charges in Manhattan federal court. See Department of Justice press release here, UN News Service story here, and Secretary-General Ban's statement here. At the request of the United States, then-Secretary-General Annan waived Bahel's UN immunities prior to his arrest last year. Bahel's conviction comes three months to the day after Vladimir Kuznetsov, former chair of the UN's Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering, also by a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. See here; see also United States v. Kuznetsov, 442 F. Supp. 2d 102 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). Kuznetsov's co-conspirator was Alexander Yakovlev, who pled guilty to fraud and money laundering charges in August 2005. See here.

These convictions and pleas stem from federal investigations of corruption at the UN, including in the Oil-for-Food Program (OFF). The highest-level OFF indictment to date has been of Benon Sevan and Ephraim Nadler (unsealed in January of this year). They are charged with fraud, corruption, bribery, and conspiracy to commit those offenses. See here. Sevan was the executive director of the UN's Office of Iraq Programme, which operated the OFF. He is now in his native Cyprus. If he remains there, it is unlikely that he'll face charges in the United States, as the U.S.-Cyprus Extradition Treaty does not require the parties to extradite their own nationals. See here.

There have been a number of other OFF-related indictments, pleas, and convictions. In 2005, three persons and two corporate entities were indicted for participation in an illegal kickback scheme related to the OFF. See here. In July 2006, Tongsun Park was convicted of conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Government of Iraq in connection with the creation of the OFF. See here. And in January 2005, Samir Vincent pled guilty to similar charges. See here.