Accessibility links

Breaking News

Former UN Official Convicted Of Laundering Bribes

Food being delivered to Iraq under the oil-for-food program in June 2001 (AFP) March 8, 2007 -- A former Russian diplomat at the United Nations has been found guilty of conspiring to launder more than $300,000 in bribes from UN contractors -- and taking a share of the money.

A federal jury at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, New York, jury spent less than a day deliberating the case of former UN diplomat Vladimir Kuznetsov.

The 49-year-old Kuznetsov faces a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. He will remain under house arrest until his sentencing, scheduled for June 25.

The money-laundering transactions occurred during Kuznetsov's tenure at the UN Committee for Administrative and Budgetary Issues -- a powerful body overseeing the UN's budget. He was later elected chairman of the committee.

The FBI seized Kuznetsov in September 2005 at a New York restaurant after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan lifted his diplomatic immunity at the request of U.S. authorities.

Russian Testimony

Kuznetsov's arrest came just days after fellow Russian Aleksandr Yakovlev, a former UN procurement officer, testified against him.

Yakovlev has admitted accepting nearly $1 million in bribes from companies that were competing for lucrative UN contracts.

Some of the bribes came from firms participating in the UN's oil-for-food program -- a scheme launched in 1996 to help ordinary Iraqis cope with sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Yakovlev is awaiting trial and could face up to 60 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors charged that when Yakovlev told Kuznetsov about his illegal dealings, Kuznetsov agreed to receive a share of the profits in return for his silence.

Today's conviction maintains that rather than reporting his colleague's misconduct, Kuznetsov set up an offshore bank account in 2000 on the Caribbean island of Antigua to deposit the money.

The former diplomat does not deny receiving $300,000 from Yakovlev. But Kuznetsov says he was unaware the money came from illegally obtained bribes.

The Russian Mission to the United Nations in comments to ITAR-TASS today expressed disappointment with the U.S. federal court's ruling.

(compiled from agency reports)