domingo, octubre 17, 2004

SE ESTRECHA el cerco, y ya era hora:
American prosecutors are preparing charges against Benon Sevan, the former head of the United Nations oil for food programme, who has been accused of accepting millions of dollars in kickbacks from Saddam Hussein's regime.

[...] Former officials in Iraq's state oil company, Somo, have alleged to investigators reporting to the International Relations committee that Mr Sevan was 'sacked' on Saddam's orders in 2001 for failing to keep promises to campaign on ending sanctions.

'The basic understanding of these officials is that Saddam felt short-changed by this guy who took the money but did not deliver,' said one committee staffer.

Mr Sevan had been due to retire this year until a committee was appointed to investigate allegations that he had taken kickbacks from Saddam's regime. In his native Cyprus last week, he denied that he was running away from his accusers.

'These people are digging, digging. That's nothing to do with me,' he said from his five-star hotel. 'Cyprus is my home. I'm here because I want to be here. I've made my statement and stand by it. It's not for me to comment on anything else.'

A spokesman for the Southern district of Manhattan's federal prosecutor's office said it was 'too early' to comment on its indictment efforts over Mr Sevan. Officials are, however, examining the diplomat's extensive property portfolio in the United States.

According to records, properties registered in his name include a flat in Manhattan, a house in the Hamptons on Long Island, a house in the nearby district of Rye, and a house on New Jersey's 'Gold Coast'.