“To dismantle corruption’s high walls, I urge every nation to ratify and implement the UN Convention against Corruption. Its ground breaking measure have made important inroads, but there is much more to do.”
— UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
In 2003 the United Nations declared that December 9 would be “International Anti-Corruption” Day. The global body’s celebrations this year will be muted. The 2013-14 president of the UN General Assembly, John Ashe, is now accused by US prosecutors of successfully soliciting bribes of some $US1.3m from Chinese tycoons and understating his income by the same amount. Free after posting $US1million bail on the tax charges, he denies wrong-doing.
Ashe can’t possibly be guilty! His priority is saving the planet from CO2 emissions, not taking bribes. Look what he says on his UN website by way of “summing up his philosophy”:
Guided by a passion for sustainable development, Mr. Ashe has been in the forefront of international efforts to address the adverse effects of climate change and the fight to eradicate poverty… We only have the planet we live on, and if we are to leave it in a reasonable state for the next generation, the quest for a safer, cleaner, and more equitable world is one that should consume us all.
Some innocents are still starry-eyed about saving the planet from CO2 hell. They want the UN’s minions and members to start the job in the Paris, where the world’s warmists will convene in December, the latest confab in the long series of global parleys intended to mandate expensive energy for rich and poor alike. They also hope that First World taxpayers will pony up $US100 billion a year as a climate-compensatory present for the Third-World’s kleptocrats.
These Paris-bound carbonphobics might profitably ponder the allegations against ex-UN President Ashe. He’s been a standard-bearer in the UN climate campaign since way back in 1995. He represented the Group of Latin and American States (GRULAC) as vice-president of the first and fourth climate conferences (1995 and 1998), and in the next few years chaired the Subsidiary Bureau for Implementation (SBI) five times. In 2009 he chaired the Kyoto Protocol Negotiating Track, preparing groundwork for the Copenhagen conference. His bright idea was First World emissions cuts in the near term of 25-40%, because that is what “the science is telling us”, he said. After Copenhagen’s debacle, he chaired the Negotiating Track again in 2010, preparing draft decisions for the Cancun round of talks, including “carbon market mechanisms”.
Give Ashe a platform (as distinct from the dock) and he’ll spout climate pieties till the methane-emitting cows come home. Listen to him as UN President at the Warsaw climate conference in 2013. (The date includes the period when, allegedly, he was taking bribes and fiddling his tax). He particularly urged the West towards “operationalizing and capitalizing post haste the [$US100b pa] Green Climate Fund.” He said,
If there is one constant than binds us all in this our UN global family, it is this: we are all committed to the overarching goal of improving the lives of our respective peoples...
… The time has come for you to stand up and say: yes we will. Yes, we will do something. We will act. Not tomorrow, not next week, but right here. Today! Let me end with one heartfelt appeal: Do what needs to be done for 2015 – if not for yourself – then for the children both present and for those yet to come.
But when it came to donning the hair shirt and shrinking his carbon footprint, Mr Ashe had other ideas. According to prosecutors, this CO2-detesting Beau Brummel drew on his alleged bribes to spend $US59,000 on Hong Kong suits in 2013 and 2014. Heavens, were they made from cloth of gold?
To match his hand-tailored wardrobe, in 2014 he snapped up a pair of Rolex watches at roughly $US27,000 apiece (Full disclosure: I’m wearing a $US5 timepiece), and in late 2014 he took out a $US40,000 lease on a new BMW X5 (drive-away price, in Melbourne, about $A130,000). Then he bought a membership at a South Carolina country club for $US69,000, and solicited money to construct a $US30,000 basketball court at his home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
See also: Gillard, the UN and Me
Also in 2014, $US200,000 was wired into his private bank account, allegedly for a Presidential foreign trip to spruik the Macau conference-centre project of fellow-arrestee Mr Ng Lap Seng. Prosecutors assert Ng bribed Ashe with $US500,000, while other Chinese tycoons are said to have slipped Ashe another $US800,000 to support business deals in his native Antigua. He allegedly shared some of that moolah with a then-Prime Minister of Antigua.
Doubtless by coincidence, one of the country’s two prime mMinisters that year, Gaston Browne, signed a huge deal with Chinese investors. I make no suggestion this involved any wrong-doing. The deal was for an enormous tourist resort with five hotels, 1,300 holiday homes, a golf course, marina and casino. The full cost of the project—spread over ten years—would have been equivalent to almost two-thirds of the country’s GDP.
The Antigua project itself had a troubled history. A previous equivalent proposal involved Antigua’s biggest private employer, Sir Allen Stanford. Sadly, Stanford (now minus the ‘Sir’) is now doing 110 years in a Florida prison for a $US7b Ponzi fraud. He will not be a free man before he attains the age of 172.
UN President Ashe was succeeded as President by Sam Kutesa of Uganda, who retired a month ago. Remarkably, Kutesa also has links to one of the five current Chinese accused, Sheri Yan, CEO of the Global Sustainability Foundation, of which Ashe is chairman. Kutesa’s wife, Edith, is a vice-chair of the foundation.
Meanwhile, the Paris talks loom. While Ashe has been obliged to accessorize his sartorial style with an FBI monitoring bracelet, the UN’s current heavies will take over the spouting of Ashe-esque urgings for trillion-dollar climate spending. Many people don’t realize that the Paris talks will be more of the same UN crowd wearing different hats.
- The science, such as it is, is compiled by the IPCC but vetted and tweaked before release by the UN member states.
- The IPCC reports to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which again is just the UN members. The UNFCCC gave the IPCC its 1992 question-begging mission to report on the risks of human-caused climate change.
- This is a political not scientific mission, since the mission statement ignores the role of natural climate change, and simply wants backing for the assertion that there is a human-caused climate risk.
In fact there’s been no global warming for 18 years and 8 months — risky, human-caused or otherwise. The prosecutor has fertile fields for examination. Mr Ng generously donated $US1.5m to the UN last year partly to host a conference in Macau for developing countries. At the conference, various ambassadors including from Bangladesh and Kenya, waxed lyrical about Mr Ng’s proposed UN centre there, and the conference endorsed the project. Who knows what the motives were? The UN is Corruption Central and secretary-general Ban Ki-moon suspects it. In his own words, the allegations against Ashe “go to the heart of the integrity of the UN.”
US prosecutor Preet Bharara says his job is to determine if “corruption is business as usual at the United Nations…If proven, today’s charges will confirm that the cancer of corruption that plagues too many local and state governments infects the United Nations as well.”
The UN’s corruption gets media airtime only occasionally. This is partly because, for the Love Media, UN = Sweetness & Light. And also because UN finances, including its budget, are shrouded in near-impenetrable secrecy. The only watchdog appears to be US law enforcement agencies, whose clout derives from the UN’s New York residency and the US’s 25% funding of the entire UN budget (guesstimated at $US30b plus).
One reporter, Claudia Rosett, has made it her business to probe into the UN murk, much as Canadian Donna Laframboise was able to lift the lid on the shenanigans inside the IPCC, starting with her 2011 Delinquent Teenager book on the IPCC. Rosett, of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, won an award in 2005 for her exposes of the oil-for-food UN scandal. She expounded on the Ashe bribery allegations last week in an interview with The Wall street Journal:
It is a classic case of UN corruption. The UN just lends itself to this — it invites it — it is built into the UN’s DNA. They have immunity. They operate with enormous secrecy. After years of promises to reform and to become more transparent, they still are not.
It is a collective, ultimately accountable to no one, it’s just 193 member states. Unless the US enforces things, there is really no power to enforce anything. This alleged corruption is the tip of a very big iceberg.
The hallmark of this big scam is promising to do ‘good works’. This becomes cover for all sorts of sleaze and corruption.
It doesn’t figure in your daily doings, it figures in the things coming down like the big [Paris] climate conference, which will affect your electricity bills most likely.
Rosett noted in passing that the Chinese tycoon defendant Ng had been a frequent visitor to the Clinton-era White House in the 1990s. “An interesting connection — and here he is, again charged with an alleged bribe conspiracy enlisting the help of the head of the UN General Assembly to promote their endeavors. The US taxpayers enlist so much money and trust, but that is leveraged to line the pockets of corrupt officials.”
UN bigwigs would rather pick up a black snake, it seems, than do anything serious to root out the rorts. When the charges were laid against Ashe, Ban Ki-moon claimed through his spokeswoman that the UN had no powers to investigate non-staff, so it was merely “studying the complaints”. Diplomats were the responsibility of their home countries, the spokeswoman said, as if the UN had no jurisdiction over use and mis-use of UN funds.
After a public outcry, Ban Ki-moon had second thoughts and announced an internal inquiry into Ashe’s Sustainability Foundation (which also has two Australian offices) vis-a-vis the UN and the Ng entities. The Foundation is one of more than 8000 such bodies and NGOs affiliated with the UN, not to mention thousands more working with UN sub-groups. Some of these are well-known to aid workers as “suitcase” NGOs — the joke being that they are said to channel suitcases of cash to their executives and/or “grey” recipients.
Ashe is not the only UN climateer under a cloud. The “father” of the UN’s climate push is Canadian business man Maurice Strong, who organized the first “Earth Summit” in 1972. He became head of the UN Environmental Program (UNEP), which joined with the World Meteorological Association to found the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 1992, he led the Rio Earth Summit as its secretary-general. At Rio, he suggested:
We may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrialized civilization to collapse. Isn’t it our job to bring that about?
He then became sidekick to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Alas, the 2005 audits into the oil-for-food scandal turned up a 1997 cheque endorsed by Strong and made out to “M. Strong” for $US988,885. The cheque was issued by a Jordanian bank and came from South Korean business man Tongsun Park, later convicted in 2006 of trying to bribe UN officials.
Strong hastily resigned and, within days, had fled to Beijing, where he set up permanent residence. He said that he just wanted to “sideline himself until the cloud was removed”. He claimed: “It just happened to coincide with the publicity surrounding my so-called nefarious activities. I had no involvement at all in oil-for-food … I just stayed out of it.”
Annan, near the end of his term at the UN, delivered this touching tribute to Strong:
Looking back on our time together, we have shared many trials and tribulations and I am grateful that I had the benefit of your global vision and wise counsel on many critical issues… Your unwavering commitment to the environment, multilateralism and peaceful resolution of conflicts is especially appreciated.
In Beijing, Strong was a regime favorite because his cousin, Anne Louise Strong, had lived with Mao Tse-tung for two years. Then-Premier Chou En-Lai displayed his respect by arranging her 1970 funeral. Maurice Strong is now 86 and has disappeared from view.
The later “Cash for Kim” scandal from 1997- 2007 involved the UN development Program (UNDP) giving Pyongyang access to sensitive security information, illicit transfers of dual-use US technology and millions in cash without adequate controls. In effect, Kim Jong-Il was given UN pocket-money, while Kim was providing UNDP with counterfeit US $100 bills to store in the UNDP’s Pyongyang safe.
Russia for the past decade has stymied efforts to root out another form of UN corruption. This comes as no surprise, as Russia is the main beneficiary of $1 billion a year in rigged leasing contracts for aircraft and helicopters. Other key players will not confront Russia over this because they need Moscow’s cooperation on unrelated issues at the UN. In 2006, a Russian UN official pleaded guilty to US charges that he had been getting big bribes. A second Russian UN official was also convicted.
The biggest UN scandal of all was the $US13b oil-for-cash rorting, originally designed to keep humanitarian goods flowing to Saddam’s Iraq when that country was under UN sanctions. The program was set up – allegedly by Russian intelligence operatives within the US — to deliver billions worth of cut-price oil vouchers to Saddam Hussein. Saddam distributed them as bribes, including to Russian entities who profited by $US476m and kicked back a share of the profits to Saddam. Russian beneficiaries included the son of the Russian ex-Ambassador to Iraq, an ex-PM of the Soviet era, the Russian President’s office director and the Communist Party. Even the Russian Orthodox Church saw a little graft tossed into its collection plates.
Another $US35 million from the program went to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers ($US15-25,000 each). Other beneficiaries included Al Qaeda, the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the chairman of the Qatari Horceracing Association. The UN official running that program was found by a US inquiry to have been slung $US160,000 a year from beneficiaries. The official denied the charges, claiming that the flow of riches originated with a doting aunt in Cyprus, who had since died.
The UN denied all requests by the US Government Accounting Office for access to the confidential internal audits. The GAO later reported that Saddam’s regime received a $US10 billion windfall from the oil-for-food program while Kofi Annan was UN secretary-general. US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, said in his audit that Annan had not been found to be corrupt but “his behavior has not been exonerated by any stretch of the imagination”. Annan’s son, Kojo, was a marketing consultant to a Swiss-based inspection company Cotecna, which in 1998 won a $US4.8m contract under the Oil-for-Food program. Kojo successfully sued London’s Sunday Times for claiming he had confessed to wrongdoing.
Kofi Annan, in his foreward to The UN Convention Against Corruption, loftily promised that it
… will reaffirm the importance of core values such as honesty, respect for the rule of law, accountability and transparency in promoting development and making the world a better place for all.
Be assured that the United Nations Secretariat… will do whatever it can to support the efforts of States to eliminate the scourge of corruption from the face of the Earth.
The scams and scandals mentioned above merely scratch the surface of UN misdeeds. Not least is the impunity with which some members of its peacekeeping forces – who total 100,000-plus – have engaged in rape, sex trafficking and paedophilia, such as trading UN food rations with hungry children in return for sex. A UN Office of International Oversight Services report from May 2015 recorded 480 allegations of abuse between 2008 and 2013. Given the underreporting of such crimes, the number of victims is likely far higher. The so-called peacekeepers are accountable only to their countries of origin.
As an aside, The Age reported in 2006 that, in early 2001, two Jordanian soldiers with the UN Peacekeeping Force in East Timor were evacuated home with injured penises after attempting intercourse with goats.
Tony Thomas blogs at No BS Here (I Hope)