Skip to comments.Russia scorns "dubious" conviction of U.N. diplomat
Posted on 03/10/2007 2:00:55 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Foreign Ministry poured scorn on a U.S. court's conviction of one of its U.N. diplomats for money laundering, saying on Thursday it had grave doubts about the trial.
Vladimir Kuznetsov, 49, who once chaired a U.N. budget committee, was found guilty on Wednesday of helping launder more than $300,000 in bribes and taking a share of the money. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement that Russia had been amazed by his arrest, which it considered unnecessary for the investigation.
"During the process and trial, the American prosecutors put pressure on Kuznetsov and on witnesses, which was a gross violation of professional rules. This became known to the public and the media during the hearings and points to the American court's bias in this affair," Kamynin said.
Russia considered former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to have no grounds to lift Kuznetsov's immunity from prosecution and Kamynin said the judge had set Kuznetsov's bail unjustifiably high and attached harsh conditions.
"The decision to do so was taken hastily, in a matter of hours, without consulting the U.N. General Assembly or Russia," Kamynin said. "Under such conditions, the court's guilty verdict on V.V. Kuznetsov gives cause for great doubts."
The charges grew out of a criminal investigation into corruption in the now-defunct $64 billion humanitarian U.N. oil-for-food program for Iraq.
The program was first investigated by a U.N.-established commission, headed by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, who traced about $950,000 held by Kuznetsov's colleague Alexander Yakovlev to companies that won U.N. contracts.
Kuznetsov helped Yakovlev, a U.N. staff member who handled procurement, pocket illegal payments from firms seeking U.N. contracts. Yakovlev pleaded guilty in 2005 to soliciting more than $1 million in bribes and cooperated with authorities.
Kuznetsov was alleged to have found out about the secret payments in 2000 and arranged to receive a share in a bank account in Antigua.
The oil-for-food program was designed to soften the blow to civilians of U.N. sanctions against Iraq by allowing Baghdad to sell oil to finance purchases of humanitarian goods. The sanctions were imposed after Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait in 1990. It began in late 1996 and ended in 2003.
Saddam Hussein's government raised $1.8 billion through kickbacks and surcharges on the sale of oil in the program.
U.S. federal prosecutors have indicted 12 people in relation to the program, including oil traders. Three U.N. staffers have been indicted.
How dare anyone be convicted of corruption! If there was any justice in Russia, Putin and his neo-communist mafia thugs would all be watching paint fade in their cells, or worse.
Apparently, Russian corruption is simply good business practice. Anyone in Brighton Beach will tell you the same.
This is rich coming from Russia...
Say something bad about Puttie and die.