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Volcker changed language of report
November 06, 2005 22:42 IST
Last Updated: November 06, 2005 22:52 IST
With his report on Iraqi oil deals creating a political storm in India, Paul Volcker, in a startling revelation, has said he agreed to change the language that referred to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's son Kojo's business dealings.
Complete Coverage: The Volcker Report
Volcker, who investigated allegations of corruption in the UN's $64 billion Iraqi oil-for food programme, said he had no idea how much the 18-month probe would expose the vulnerabilities of the world body and how close he would come to toppling the Secretary-General as its leader.
"It had that potential from the start," Volcker said in an interview to the Los Angeles Times.
But when it came to the moment when he realized that Annan's job hung on his words, Volcker said, "I felt uncomfortable."
The daily said the UN chief and his lawyer asked Volcker to change the language about business dealings by Kojo Annan that they thought could force his father's resignation, hours before the publication of the draft forward of the report in September.
Volcker agreed. "It was merely a part of the due process," he was quoted as saying.
Before releasing the September report on Annan, Volcker met Annan and his lawyer to discuss the harsh conclusion.
"The wording we had was that Annan's performance did not meet the standards of the United Nations," Volcker said, adding, "And there was more, along the same vein."
Asked on Thursday, the day the controversial report in which External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh and Congress Party have been named as non-contractual "beneficiaries" of the programme, whether he thought the UN chief knew about his son's attempts to use his father's connections for his company's benefit, Volcker said, "To this day, I still don't know."
A UN official with knowledge of the meeting said the conclusions cited a failure by Annan in management and oversight, together with a failure to keep close tabs on his son's questionable business dealings.
Annan's reaction, said another person with knowledge of the meeting, was that the way the conclusions were phrased implied that he favoured Cotecna's (the Swiss firm for which Kojo worked) bid, and made him look so bad that it might force his resignation.
Annan's lawyer, Gregory Craig, asked that the findings be dealt with separately, because Annan took responsibility for the management issues, but not for his son's behaviour, of which he says he had no knowledge.
"We presented the facts, and they spoke for themselves," Annan told The Times about the meeting.
Even if he had doubts that Annan was unaware of Cotecna's bid, he was convinced that Annan had not influenced the contract. It was not worth toppling a secretary-general.
"No one ever said he had influenced the process, and that was an important consideration," Volcker said.
"That he did not do a proper investigation of his son's possible conflict of interest was the key point. It would have saved him a lot of trouble," Volcker said.
He concluded that Kojo Annan dealt in a shady world of many bank accounts, false contracts and friends of convenience.
But there was no evidence, he said, that Annan influenced the award of the contract, or even definitively knew that his son's company was bidding for it.
"Nobody disagrees that there were four or five times when you raise your eyebrows and say, 'Didn't it dawn on Kofi that Cotecna was involved?' But then you say, 'Then again, maybe not,'" Volcker said.