Those in the know inside the U.S. State Department and on Capitol Hill say they are not surprised that the investigation of the U.N. oil-for-food program led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker found little evidence that Secretary General Kofi Annan knew of his son Kojo's shady dealings.
U.N. officials on Tuesday were pointing to the leaked report as vindication for their boss, though the report simply claimed that there wasn't enough evidence either way. But the reality is that Volcker's committee has done little if anything to further the oil-for-food investigation along. In fact, according to a prosecutor based in New York with knowledge of the ongoing federal investigation of the U.N. program, Volcker's commission has actually impeded federal authorities from investigating and possibly bringing indictments in the U.N. scandal.
According to the attorney, once Volcker got wind of federal authorities pursuing criminal charges in the oil-for-food case, he asked for some leeway so that the panel could get the report done and get at least some of the information released. According to this source, it appears the United States Justice Department did indeed show Volcker that courtesy, but found itself rewarded with no assistance from the Volcker commission.
In fact, on several occasions witnesses whom Volcker investigators interviewed and whom they knew might be helpful to the U.S. prosecution were allowed to leave the country before the Volcker commission provided prosecutors with their names. To date, the Justice Department has indicted one individual for dealing in oil certificates with Iraq, with additional prosecutions expected.
"We know there were problems with Volcker," says a U.S. State Department source. "We heard the complaints, and we spoke to him directly about it. But the commission was less concerned about prosecutions and more concerned about getting the report out with the fewest feathers ruffled. It wasn't the best way to get to the truth."
Not everyone appears fooled by the report. Already, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, whose Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations provided the only accurate portrait of the oil-for-food program, is expected to hold additional hearings on the matter shortly.
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