Friday, July 29, 2005

The Return of Rosett

It's been a while since Oil-For-Food has made the headlines, but that doesn't mean the scandal has gone anywhere. Claudia Rosett returns with the story of the mysterious link between the scandal and French businessman Jean-Bernard Merimee:
Until this week, Merimee figured on the U.N. Web site's list of "Special and Personal Representatives and Envoys of the Secretary-General," with the rank of Under Secretary-General. Following a query this past Tuesday into Merimee's whereabouts, the United Nations quietly removed his name from the list. Asked about the revision, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric explained that Merimee has not worked for the United Nations since Feb. 14, 2002, and that his name had remained on the list for more than three years due to an "oversight."

... What to make of all this? Repeated attempts this week to contact Merimee - or even locate him - hit a series of dead ends. Spokesmen for the French U.N. mission, the European Commission's New York office, and the United Nations itself, all say they have no contact information for him. Calls to a phone number in Paris said to be his were not answered.

Despite the allegations, there is no proof Merimee did anything wrong. It remains a source of some mystery whether French investigators now delving into the case will divulge whether Merimee was knowingly involved in Saddam's plans to provide him with profitable oil deals; or was the unwitting target of a failed bribery scheme; or whether the allegations about "Jan Mirami [French]," are accurate at all.

On the U.N. front, however, there is the question of why, if Merimee's work for the organization ended on Feb. 14, 2002, there was no public announcement of his departure. And also why his name remained for another three years on the public list of those enjoying the senior status of U.N. under-secretary-general and special adviser to Kofi Annan - an "oversight" amended only after an inquiry to Annan's office this week, following up on recent news that Merimee had become one of the targets of a French Oil-for-Food probe.

And, on a far bigger scale, there is the question of whether the U.N.-authorized inquiry into Oil-for-Food, led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, is planning to clarify not only the roles in the scandal of former Under Secretaries-General Maurice Strong, Benon Sevan and now Jean-Bernard Merimee, but their ties to Annan himself - and his knowledge, if any, of their alleged ties to Saddam during their U.N. service.

The pattern continues: where the U.N. is involved, corruption soon follows (hat tip to the Instapundit)...

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