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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
The Annans: Story of a father and son
By Paul Reynolds
World Affairs correspondent, BBC News website

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan must have hoped that a March 2005 report into the Iraqi oil-for-food programme would help put his ship back on an even keel - but it turns out there are still squalls ahead.

Kojo Annan
Annan said he expected the highest standards of integrity from Kojo

The report effectively cleared him of corruption, saying there was "no evidence" of "improper influence by the secretary general in the bidding or selection process" under which the Swiss company Cotecna was chosen to run the programme.

But three months later, new memos have surfaced which appear to suggest that a top Cotecna executive not only met Mr Annan days before the firm won the UN contract - but that he told colleagues their firm could "count on the support" of Mr Annan's "entourage".

That may muddy the conclusions drawn by the earlier report, which found that the evidence was "not reasonably sufficient" to show that Mr Annan had known about the Cotecna bid which came when his son, Kojo, was employed by the company.

Even that report found him guilty of complacency. The chairman of the inquiry, Paul Volcker, a former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, said there had been an "inadequate" investigation by Mr Annan's office into the links between Kojo and Cotecna after it was given the contract.

The problem for Mr Annan, the report found, was that his own son did not tell him the truth.

It turned out that Kojo's employment by Cotecna as a "consultant" in fact continued after the contract was granted.

This turns the report into an account of a personal tragedy as well as a public document about the conduct of an international body.

Contracts and cocktails

A brief narrative is essential to an understanding of Mr Annan's position.

The story goes back to 1998 when Cotecna, run by another father and son, Elie and Robert Massey, undercut the British company Lloyd's in a bid to monitor whether Iraq was importing food and medicine, and not arms and war materiel.

Iraqi oil pipeline
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At the time, the report notes, Cotecna was "not doing well". It had lost business in Pakistan and Nigeria and was "embroiled in a criminal investigation" into charges that it "had made illegal payments for the benefit of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto".

Cotecna was chosen, however, and on 31 December 1998 it signed the UN contract.

Mr Annan had become secretary general in 1997.

Kojo, a son by his first marriage, had already been working for Cotecna since 1995. His job was to bring in business in West Africa.

Mr Annan of course knew about his son's work, but the report does not accuse of him of allowing a conflict of interest to develop.

It did not find that he even knew about the Cotecna bid or that he sought to influence it.

Nor does it did it find any suspicious evidence about two meetings he had with Elie Massey before the contract was awarded.

The first was simply for "cocktails", both parties said, and the second was to discuss a lottery for the UN.

Asking questions

It was in the following year, 1999, that things started to get difficult. The London Sunday Telegraph revealed that Kojo Annan was still employed by Cotecna.

Questions started to be asked. Mr Annan asked them of his son.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
The UN leader was already vulnerable

He called Kojo, who assured him that he had left the company the previous year. Cotecna told Mr Annan the same thing.

What Kojo did not tell his father was that he was still being paid by Cotecna (the payments were filtered, the report says, through another company) as a "consultant." This arrangement lasted until 2004.

Mr Annan set up an internal UN inquiry into this, led by Under Secretary for Management Joseph Connor, but it lasted for all of one day and concluded that Kojo had indeed left Cotecna in 1998.

The secretary general is criticised by the report for not referring the issue to the UN bodies charged with oversight of procedures.

In due course, Kojo Annan's status with Cotecna became known and the company confirmed the payments.

Mr Annan then set up the Volcker inquiry.

Vulnerable but focused

The problem for Mr Annan is that his son's behaviour is not the only cloud over the oil-for food-programme.

An earlier report in February by Mr Volcker and his team revealed scandal and corruption. So have investigations in the US Congress.

Allied to the lack of faith among many leading figures in the Bush administration about the UN, these issues have made life difficult for Mr Annan.

There have been calls for his resignation.

He himself wants to concentrate on the reform programme he announced on 21 March.

When asked, after publication of the report, whether he would resign he replied "No."

He added: "I have lots of work to do."


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