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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
US arrests Russian UN diplomat
UN headquarters
The UN has been hit by controversy over its oil-for-food scheme
A Russian diplomat based at the United Nations has appeared in a US federal court on money laundering charges.

Vladimir Kuznetsov, the elected head of a key UN budget oversight committee, had been arrested in an FBI raid.

He is accused of helping another UN official launder hundreds of thousands of dollars, says the indictment.

Mr Kuznetsov, 48, was taken into custody on Thursday night after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan agreed to waive his diplomatic immunity.

US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, publicly thanked Mr Annan on Friday for his actions.

"We made the request yesterday to waive diplomatic privileges and immunities," he said. "We want to thank the Secretary General for his personal and very prompt decision".

Oil-for-food programme

The indictment, unsealed in the court in Manhattan, says that between 2000 and June 2005 Mr Kuznetsov "laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars in criminal proceeds" by establishing an offshore company.

It says the money was obtained by a "co-conspirator", who was not identified but was said to have served as a UN procurement officer from at least 1985 to June 2005.

Last month, another Russian diplomat, Alexander Yakovlev, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

Mr Yakovlev, who worked in procurement, became the first UN official to face criminal charges over the scandal-hit oil-for-food programme to Iraq.

UN deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying the charges against Mr Kuznetsov stemmed from an investigation into Mr Yakovlev.

The latest arrest comes days before publication of the final report by an independent inquiry into the controversial $64bn programme that ran from 1996 until April 2003.


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