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Friday, April 15, 2005

oil-for-food indictments

The Globe and Mail:

Two high-ranking UN officials have been cited in a U.S. criminal complaint against a South Korean businessman who was at the centre of a 1970s congressional corruption scandal and is now accused of accepting millions of dollars from Iraq related to the UN oil-for-food program. The reported involvement of the two unidentified UN officials was likely to cast a new shadow on the world body, which has spent more than a year trying to get to the bottom of allegations of massive corruption in the $64-billion humanitarian program that was aimed at helping Iraqis cope with UN sanctions. The complaint calling for an arrest warrant against Tonsun Park was made public at the same time as an indictment charging a Texas oil company owner and two oil traders from Britain and Bulgaria with paying millions of dollars in secret kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime to secure oil deals. The legal action was taken by U.S. attorneys in the Southern District of New York as congressional investigators and a panel led by former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker continue their probes into the oil-for-food program and oil smuggling by Saddam Hussein. Mr. Volcker and the leaders of his inquiry say their final report — expected in midsummer — will likely lead to dozens of criminal prosecutions by legal authorities in various countries for bribery, sanctions busting, money laundering and fraud.
Hopefully these indictments, and those that will follow will be the start of clearing up a lot of corruption in the U.N beauracracy. As I have maintained for a long time, we are better off with a U.N. than without one, so long as that organization is at least reasonably moral. There are many challenges to overcome to get to a more moral, and therefor useful, U.N. and it's internal beauracracy corruption issues is just one of them, but without that being fixed, nothing else will matter. Of course the bigger challenge is that the nature of too many of the U.N. member states is not what we would wish for. For example, a human rights commission is a good thing, but not so much when it is chaired by Libya and has such stalwarts defenders of human rights as China and Cuba on it. One step at a time though.


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