fourhorses wrote:Rosett's Notebook: On-going reports from the trial Oil-For-Food
About that UN Mystery Official #2...
06/30 11:33 AM
... the one who issued a public statement regarding Oil-for-Food on April 18, 2005 saying “I cannot recall a single instance in which I had any contact or discussion on this program with any of the officials responsible.” (see below copy of Maurice Strong’s full statement).
Oil-for-Food has been a puzzle so absorbing, once you get a taste for it, that I have sometimes thought someone ought to make a board game out of it (you’d need a very big board). When the feds issued their initial complaint last year against Tongsun Park, one of the more intriguing riddles involved the identities of two mystery figures described in the narrative only as “high-ranking UN Official #1” and “high-ranking UN Official #2.”
Their names were quickly guessed, but it was not until the state’s cooperating witness Samir Vincent took the stand this week that we had official confirmation. Official #1 was Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who during the formative years of Oil-for-Food, from 1992-1996, also held the title of Secretary-General of the U.N.
Official #2 was longtime U.N. eminence Maurice Strong, a Canadian sometimes dubbed an “international man of mystery,” who for decades has traveled and worked in high U.N. circles. And in 1996 — the year that Oil-for-Food finally came together — Strong worked both at the World Bank and as an top adviser to Boutros-Ghali at the U.N. Strong was then snapped up in early 1997 by the newly promoted Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and put to work as the chief architect of the first sweeping round of Annan’s endless revolutions of reform. Strong was kept on as a top adviser by Annan until 2005, stepping aside shortly after it became apparent that he was the “UN Official #2” mentioned in the Park complaint. It turned out — by-the-by— that Strong had also been employing as his U.N. office assistant his own stepdaughter, Kristina Mayo, without declaring the relationship to the U.N.
Among other things, Strong’s 1997 reform plan consolidated the administration of the ad hoc new Oil-for-Food program into a single, entrenched office in the UN Secretariat, which Annan then entrusted to Benon Sevan — since alleged by Volcker to have taken payoffs from Saddam (Sevan, when last seen, this spring, living on full U.N. pension in a penthouse apartment on Cyprus, said he was innocent).
During that same first year of Kofi Annan’s reign, 1997, which was also the first full year of Oil-for-Food, Maurice Strong received a check from Tongsun Park for $988,885, which according to Paul Volcker’s U.N.-authorized inquiry was bankrolled by Saddam. When Volcker’s investigators asked Strong last year about this six-figure check, Strong at first said he did not remember it. When Volcker’s investigators then waved a copy under his nose, complete with his own signature, Strong recovered his memory, but said it was payment for a normal commercial investment that Park had wished to make in a Strong family oil company, and that he had not known the money came from Saddam. Volcker commented wryly in his September, 2005 report that the U.N. needed a “more rigorous disclosure process for conflicts of interest,” but let Strong off with just that rap on the knuckles. (For more on this, here’s a link to ”Strong Implications” from NRO this past January.)
We may learn more about all this at the trial very soon, possibly even today, as the prosecutors work their way toward that $988,885 check, produced by Park after traveling to Baghdad and then driving out to Jordan with $1 million cash in a cardboard box, according to the Volcker version.
For now, I am trying to square Maurice Strong’s 2005 denial of any contact with “any of the officials responsible” for Oil-for-Food with testimony from state’s witness Samir Vincent on Thursday, in which Vincent described a lunch meeting at a Chinese restaurant near the U.N.. This lunch took place in late 1996. At the time, Oil-for-Food was just getting underway, and according to Vincent, the Iraqis had decided not to bother paying Tongsun Park millions of dollars promised to him earlier that year. Park was “very unhappy,” according to Vincent’s testimony, and arranged a high-powered lunch, in a private room, to which he invited three others: Samir Vincent; Iraq’s then-ambassador to the U.N., Nizar Hamdoon; and one of Park’s high-powered friends at the U.N., Maurice Strong, who dropped by for about 45 minutes to exchange pleasantries, but having put in an appearance, left before the lunch was over.
Vincent testified Thursday that after Strong left the lunch, Tongsun Park turned to Iraq’s ambassador Hamdoon and “told him now you see my commitment, now you see why I need Iraq to keep their commitment to me and to continue what they promised to do.” http://rosett.nationalreview.com/