Friday, September 02, 2005

Another Wholesome UN official

FBI Arrests Russian U.N. Official

Sep 2, 3:01 AM (ET)By PAT MILTON
NEW YORK (AP) - The chair of a powerful United Nations budget committee was arrested by the FBI Thursday on money laundering charges, a federal law enforcement official said.
Vadim Kouznetsov, who heads the General Assembly panel that oversees the U.N. budget, was the second Russian U.N. official to be arrested by the FBI for alleged money laundering in recent weeks.
The charges were contained in a sealed grand jury indictment. Kouznetsov was to be arraigned Friday in Manhattan Federal Court.
The official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because the indictment is sealed, said the charges involve money laundering and are only remotely connected to the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq that is the target of numerous corruption investigations.
On Aug. 8, Alexander Yakovlev, a Russian who worked in the U.N. procurement office, was arrested for allegedly soliciting a bribe from a company seeking an oil-for-food contract. He also was charged with wire fraud and money laundering for allegedly accepting nearly $1 million in bribes from U.N. contractors in work outside the oil-for-food program.
Yakovlev pleaded guilty to money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in part for soliciting bribes from U.N. contractors. He could face up to 20 years in prison for each charges, officials say.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had waived Yakovlev's immunity at the request of the U.S. Attorney. It wasn't immediately known if he waived immunity for Kouznetsov as well.
The oil-for-food program was launched in December 1996 to help ordinary Iraqis cope with U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It allowed Saddam's regime to sell oil as long as the proceeds went to buy humanitarian goods or pay war reparations. Saddam allegedly sought to curry favor by giving former government officials and others vouchers for Iraqi oil that could then be resold for profit.
Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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