Source AP ©

UN copyright and patent chief profits by false birth date

The U.N. copyright and patent chief used a false birth date for more than two decades.

Under pressure from Western countries, Kamil Idris has agreed to resign as the director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organization a year before the end of his second term.

An internal audit has revealed that he joined the body claiming his birth date was 1945, which helped him land the job and win promotions. He then changed it to 1954 last year in a move that could enhance his retirement benefits.

The Associated Press has learned that Idris also made inaccurate claims about his qualifications when applying for jobs.

"WIPO will satisfy the contract between you and WIPO ... in respect of your salary, pension and other applicable entitlements," said a confidential letter from Martin Uhomoibhi, the Nigerian ambassador chairing the agency's general assembly.

The two-page letter, dated Nov. 12 and obtained Wednesday by the AP, is signed by Uhomoibhi and Idris, who told staff a day later that he would step down before the end of his second six-year term.

Idris, a Sudanese national, has an annual salary of US$311,753 (211,789 EUR), according to U.S. officials. But his pension benefits could be worth much more.

U.S. officials said Wednesday that Idris' resignation terms were still being discussed by member states and declined to elaborate. A WIPO spokeswoman said she was unable to comment immediately.

Western diplomats have been keen to secure Idris' departure and restore confidence in the 184-nation WIPO, which is viewed as an increasingly important body within the U.N. because of the growing economic value countries place on copyrights, patents and other means of protecting intellectual property.

After months of inaction on the WIPO internal audit, the United States and Switzerland spearheaded a campaign in October to block passage of the agency's US$537 million (364.8 million EUR) budget.

WIPO is unique among U.N. agencies because it achieves a multimillion-dollar (-euro) surplus by charging fees on international patents and other commercial services, without member states having to pay all operating costs. But it has been plagued by claims of mismanagement.

The WIPO internal audit leaked last year found that Idris' earlier birth date would have helped him get his first job at the agency in 1982 and later promotions until 1997, when he landed the post of director-general. The audit lists documents, including drivers licenses and identity cards, some using one birth year and others using the other.

By changing his age to the younger version, Idris could "considerably benefit" by further building up U.N. pension credits before retirement, the audit said.

Idris blames the age discrepancy on a typographical error. He rejects allegations he sought to benefit from the misstatement, or from the correction.

The audit report also raised other questions. According to the new birth year, Idris would have been 13 years old when he claimed to have held his first "part-time and full-time posts at the national level" in Sudan.

Idris' 1982 application also said he obtained a master's degree in international law from Ohio University in 1978. But Jessica Stark, spokeswoman for the university, told the AP that Idris attended from Sept. 12, 1977, to June 10, 1978, when he received a Master of Arts in African Studies.

Adding to the confusion, the audit said Idris registered at the university with a third birth date - Aug. 26, 1953, a year earlier than the revised date.

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