Annan faces fresh claim that he knew about son's oil-for-food deal

Click to follow
The Independent Online

New evidence has emerged suggesting that the United Nations secretary general knew about a UN contract awarded to the company that employed his son.

New evidence has emerged suggesting that the United Nations secretary general knew about a UN contract awarded to the company that employed his son.

Kofi Annan told an inquiry that he had been unaware that the Swiss firm, Cotecna Inspections SA, was a contender in late 1998 for a lucrative contract in the Iraqi oil-for-food scheme, which it eventually won.

Cotecna has now told investigators of the oil-for-food corruption scandal that it unearthed a previously undiscovered memo describing discussions between its executives and the secretary general at a summit in Paris just 10 days before it was awarded the contract.

The memo, written by Michael Wilson, a former vice-president of the company, appeared directly to contradict remarks made by Mr Annan earlier this spring when he said that he had no prior knowledge of Cotecna's attempt to win the contract until after it was awarded.

Cotecna said it had handed over the memo to the special UN panel investigating the corruption affair, headed by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, as well as to members of a parallel investigation effort in the US Congress.

The company was chosen in December 1998 to authenticate humanitarian goods, including foods and medicines that, under the oil-for-food programme, Iraq was permitted to purchase from proceeds of its oil production. The contract was worth $10m annually to the firm.

Kojo Annan, the son of the secretary general, had worked for Cotecna from 1995 to December 1997. He remained a consultant for the company until the end of 1998 and thereafter stayed on its payroll until 2004 as part of a deal to prevent him for working for any competing firms.

Mr Volcker gave Mr Annan the benefit of the doubt over his assertions that he had had no advance knowledge that Cotecna had been a contender for the contract.

But in his memo, Mr Wilson, who was a boyhood friend of Kojo, wrote that he had had "brief discussions with [Kofi Annan] and his entourage" about Cotecna's effort to win the contract during the Paris summit and that he had been told the firm could "count on their support".

Fred Eckhard, the secretary general's spokesman, said that officials had checked the UN's own records and had found no mention of any meeting with Cotecna. He added Mr Annan had similarly reported having no recollection of any such discussions. Cotecna denies it acted unethically.

Comments