Source Pravda.Ru

Russian UN official arrested on money laundering charges

A Russian United Nations official who works with the General Assembly's budget committee was arrested by the FBI on money laundering charges, a federal law enforcement official said.

Vadim Kouznetsov, who was handcuffed and taken into custody Thursday, is the second Russian U.N. official to be arrested for money laundering by the FBI in the last month.

Kouznetsov was to be arraigned in Manhattan Federal Court Friday. The charges against him were contained in a grand jury indictment to be unsealed in court.

The official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because the indictment is sealed, said that the charges involve money laundering and are only remotely connected to the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq which is the target of numerous corruption investigations.

Kouznetsov was a senior U.N. Secretariat official working with the powerful General Assembly committee that oversees the U.N. budget.

On Aug. 8, Alexander Yakovlev, a Russian who worked in the U.N. procurement office, was arrested for allegedly soliciting a bribe from a company seeking an oil-for-food contract. In addition he was charged with wire fraud and money laundering for allegedly accepting nearly $1 million (Ђ810,000 million) in bribes from U.N. contractors in his work outside the oil-for-food program.

Yakovlev pleaded guilty in Federal Court to money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in part for soliciting bribes from U.N. contractors. He could face up to 20 years in prison for each of the charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Hours before his arrest, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan waived Yakovlev's immunity at the request of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Yakovlev resigned in June after separate allegations came to light suggesting that he helped his son get a job with a company that did business with the United Nations. But his immunity would still have held for the time he worked for the United Nations.

The oil-for-food program was launched in December 1996 to help ordinary Iraqis cope with U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It allowed Saddam Hussein's regime to sell oil, provided the proceeds went to buy humanitarian goods or pay war reparations. Saddam allegedly sought to curry favor by giving former government officials, activists, journalists and others vouchers for Iraqi oil that could then be resold at a profit.