May 02, 2004
READER TUCKER GOODRICH notes something interesting from the transcript of Kofi Annan's oil-for-food interview on Meet the Press:
MR. RUSSERT: Someone also very close to you has alleged involvement in this scandal. This is how The San Diego Union Tribune wrote about it. "What particularly troubles are revelations that several hundred individuals, political entities and companies from more than 45 countries profited from doing illicit business with Saddam, accepting his oil contracts and paying the murderous dictator secret kick-backs. That included, according to Iraqi Oil Minister records, U.N. Assistant Secretary General Benon Sevan, executive director of the oil-for-food program, who received a vouch for 11.5 million barrels of oil through the program, enough to turn a profit as much as $3.5 million."
Now, Mr. Sevan has denied that allegation.
SEC'Y-GEN. ANNAN: Yes, sir.
MR. RUSSERT: But NBC News has obtained this letter that was sent on his stationery on April 14. This is just two weeks ago. "I refer to your e-mail ... regarding a request by `a Governmental Authority' for reports ... relating to the Oil-for-Food Programme. ... While we understand Saybolt's"--that's a company--"desire to be cooperative with bodies looking into the Programme ... we would ask that Saybolt address any further requests for documentation or information concerning these matters to us ..."
So Mr. Sevan, who's being investigated, is telling a company that's also being investigated, "Don't cooperate with government authorities unless you clear it with me." Why is he still involved in the investigation?
SEC'Y-GEN. ANNAN: Right. No, I wasn't aware of this confess for--Benon has worked with the U.N. for several decades, and I will be surprised if he's guilty of these accusations.
I wasn't aware of this confess -- er, document, either. And as Goodrich notes:
This is particularly interesting since Sevan has been on "vacation" since mid-March in Australia, and is supposed to stay on vacation until he retires. . . . Guess it's a working vacation. Poor guy, can't catch a break; or maybe he just doesn't know how to delegate.