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07.09.2005 General News

UN Probe Paints Annan's Son As Big-Spending Liar

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United Nations, New York (ANTARA News) - You can choose your friends but not your family.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan escaped charges of corruption in a report on the Iraqi oil-for-food program released on Wednesday, but evidence was presented that his son Kojo brandished his father`s name to avoid paying taxes on a luxury car and lied repeatedly while under investigation.
Kofi Annan said the report was "deeply embarrassing." One of the most embarrassing points for the soft-spoken Nobel Peace Prize winner from Ghana must be the role of his own son.
Kojo Annan, now 31, was a consultant for the Swiss firm Cotecna S.A. that won a lucrative U.N. contract in Iraq and, contrary to his repeated denials, was closely involved in the 1998 bidding process. Around the same time, he lied in order to use his father`s diplomatic privileges to avoid over $20,000 in taxes and duty on a Mercedes-Benz car, the report said.
"I think the report speaks for itself and he will have to speak for himself," Kofi Annan said of his son after he was presented with the results of a year-long probe into the Iraqi oil-for-food program which revealed inefficiency and mismanagement compounded by political tensions and corruption.
While the report from the committee headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker did not find "reasonably sufficient" evidence to conclude the secretary-general knew about Cotecna`s bid or his son`s involvement, it did fault him for failing to conduct a proper investigation.
Moreover Volcker noted that he had not said there was "no evidence," merely that there was not conclusive evidence.
Phone records and documents that Cotecna had previously withheld showed Kojo made a string of phone calls to U.N. officials at key moments in the bidding process, including several to a family friend of the Annans, Diana Mills-Aryee, whom Kojo called "Aunty" and who worked in the U.N. procurement department.
While investigating Kojo`s role in bidding for the contract, which was to inspect goods shipped to Iraq under the program, the committee stumbled across evidence of his purchase of the Mercedes-Benz, which he shipped to Ghana.
Kojo told Mercedes-Benz that the car needed to arrive in Ghana in time for Christmas for the secretary-general`s use but the elder Annan never went to the country in December 1998.
"Kojo Annan saved approximately $20,644 by purchasing and shipping the car to Ghana under false pretenses," it said.
It added that while there was no evidence the car was paid for by Cotecna as compensation in connection with the Iraqi contract, it was not clear where all of the $39,056 purchase price came from. Kojo admitted he used his father`s name to purchase the car without his consent but he received $15,000 around that time from his father, the report said.
The son of Annan`s first wife, a Nigerian, Kojo, worked in West Africa as a consultant for Cotecna and is usually based in Nigeria.
Volcker said that while the investigation had found no corruption by the secretary-general, the criticism of Kofi Annan`s behavior left unanswered questions.
"It`s troublesome that we found his son involved in activities that were inappropriate," Volcker added. (*)

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