Oil for Food records must be maintained for prosecutors, says Transparency International

TI Annual Meeting Demands Immediate Action to Prevent Loss of Vital Evidence

Issued by Transparency International Secretariat



Evidence vital to prosecuting corrupt officials in up to 2,200 companies, the United Nations and many national governments will be lost unless the U.N. takes swift action to prevent the return of records from the investigation of the scandal-ridden Oil for Food Programme to their countries of origin, much of it to Iraq.

A resolution passed unanimously today by Transparency International’s Annual Membership Meeting calls on U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to retain and secure all records related to the Independent Inquiry Committee under U.N. control.

“It defies belief that a critical and hard-won body of evidence could be so quickly handed back, making it inaccessible to prosecutors and helping shield the criminals from justice,” said Peter Eigen, Chairman of Transparency International, who transmitted the resolution to the Secretary General in a letter today. “Transparency International will monitor closely whether the Volcker Committee’s recommendations are acted upon, and to see that prosecutors bring cases against government, company and UN officials.”

The letter to Annan also urges that a small staff, familiar with the Committee’s records, be maintained at the U.N. to facilitate access to the records by law enforcement. The Committee’s documents are expected to revert back to their initial sources by the end of 2005 unless action is taken, meaning prosecutors and other law enforcement officials will no longer be able to access them to build cases against officials implicated in the scandal.

Eighty Committee staff members have spent a year and a half investigating the criminal activities that characterised the running of the programme, spending US $35 million and gathering 12 million documents in support of their case, which would be invaluable evidence in future prosecutions.

“The Oil for Food programme was meant to ensure that the people of Iraq were able to eat,” said David Nussbaum, CEO of Transparency International. “With 2,200 companies implicated in this perversion of that important goal, letting these vital records slip through prosecutors’ fingers is a slap in the face of the public interest.”

The text of the Transparency International resolution follows:

“Transparency International’s Membership voiced its outrage about the corporate bribe-paying and scandalous administration of the UN Oil-for-Food Programme alleged in the Report of the Independent Inquiry Committee, known as the Volcker Committee. Transparency International’s Annual Membership Meeting calls on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to take prompt action to ensure that all evidence collected by the Volcker Committee be retained under UN control, and be made available for use by prosecutors and other appropriate authorities around the world, for as long as necessary.

Transparency International with its National Chapters will closely monitor the follow up to the recommendations in the Volcker report, and report on its work in due course. In particular, actions should be taken by national prosecutors on legal violations described in the report, by the UN to safeguard future operational programmes, and by companies to ensure effective compliance with their legal and ethical obligations.”

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