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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 August 2005, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Russian charged in UN bribes case
By Susannah Price
BBC News, United Nations

Paul Volcker
Paul Volcker headed the inquiry into the oil-for-food programme
A former senior UN official has pleaded guilty to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.

Alexander Yakovlev is the first UN official to face criminal charges over the oil-for-food programme.

The US attorney's office said he had pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering and had been released on bail.

The money was paid to Mr Yakovlev, who worked in procurement, by foreign companies trying to win UN contracts.

His actions were uncovered by the inquiry into the oil-for-food programme, although only one charge related to that operation.

Mr Yakovlev resigned from the UN earlier this year.

'Scapegoat'

The investigators into the oil-for-food programme also found that the former director, Benon Sevan, was given money by an oil company in return for helping them to win lucrative contracts.

Mr Sevan, who's being investigated by the Manhattan district attorney, is currently in Cyprus. He resigned from the UN on Sunday, saying that he'd been made a scapegoat.

The oil-for-food programme was set up in 1996 to allow the then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to sell limited amounts of oil to buy humanitarian goods and ease the effects of sanctions.

But since his overthrow in April 2003, the programme has been hit by allegations that the Iraqi government, politicians and UN officials from several countries illegally profited from the programme.


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See archive footage of Benon Sevan




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