U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday he was disappointed in his son for accepting payments from a key contractor in the oil-for-food program for more than four years longer than had been previously acknowledged.
Kojo Annan, 31, had been employed from 1995 to 1997 at Cotecna Inspection SA, a Geneva-based firm that had been inspecting humanitarian goods imported by Iraq with U.N.-administered proceeds from its oil sales. He served briefly as a consultant until 1998.
But the younger Mr. Annan continued to receive as much as $2,500 a month from Cotecna until February 2003 as part of a “no compete” agreement, according to chagrined U.N. officials, who have said for years that the payments ended in late 1998.
“Naturally, I was very disappointed and surprised, yes,” the secretary general told reporters yesterday morning. “I understand the perception problem for the U.N., or the perception of a conflict of interest and wrongdoing.”
Yes, well, as Norm Coleman points out, it isn’t just a perception problem. Putting the most favorable construction on the U.N.’s admission, Kojo Annan lied to the organization and concealed the fact that he was receiving up to $30,000 per year from the principal firm that inspected “humanitarian” goods shipped under the Oil for Food program–goods that were often substandard, if not non-existent.
As a lawyer, I find the “non-compete” payments intriguing. What unique skills or proprietary information did Kojo have that made a non-compete appropriate? What extraordinary circumstances warranted a four-year non-compete–an unusually long term–given that Kojo only worked for Cotecna for two years, from age 22 to 24? What was the geographic scope of the agreement, and what activities was Kojo prohibited from carrying out? What did Kojo actually do during the four-year term of the non-compete?
Or, more bluntly: what is the evidence that this was a legitimate non-compete agreement, rather than a bribe? And if it was a bribe, what was Kojo Annan in a position to deliver to Cotecna?