Monday, August 08, 2005

Ex-U.N. Officer Pleads Guilty to Bribes

The fallout from the UN Oil-for-Food scandal is starting. Alexander Yakovlev has pleaded guilty to bribery, wire fraud and money laundering charges in front of the release of the Volker Commission report on the corruption in this UN scandal. Nick Wadhams of the AP reports.

'NEW YORK (AP) - A former United Nations procurement officer pleaded guilty Monday to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from U.N. contractors, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Alexander Yakovlev also pleaded guilty to soliciting a bribe under the U.N. oil-for-food program, making him the first U.N. official to face criminal charges in connection with the scandal-tainted program.

He also put forth a guilty plea to charges of wire fraud and money laundering and could face up to 20 years in prison for each charge, the office said in a statement.

Just hours earlier, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had waived Yakovlev's immunity upon request from David Kelley, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York.

Earlier Monday, a U.N.-backed probe investigating allegations of wrongdoing in the Iraq oil-for-food program accused Yakovlev of collecting nearly $1 million in kickbacks outside the program. It said he also sought a bribe as part of his work for it.'

The Volker Commission report (pdf file) has accused the Oil-for-Food program's former head, Benon Sevan, of taking illegal kickbacks and recommended his diplomatic immunity be lifted. Fox News is reporting that Sevan has resigned before the release of the report.

All in all another bad day for the scandal scarred and beleaguered UN. Time will tell if Sevan will take a plea bargain and tell all he knows, or if he will continue to keep his silence. - Sailor

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