Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Hyde Issues Subpoenas, Wants Wider Investigation Into United Nations

The chairman of the House International Relations Committee opened a second front into his investigation of the United Nations on Wednesday as his panel issued three new subpoenas into the Oil-for-Food (search) scandal.

Rep. Henry Hyde (search), R-Ill., wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) requesting audits on the World Meteorological Organization and 15 other U.N. agencies. And Hyde also had the committee he leads issue the subpoenas.

One of the targets of the subpoenas is U.S. businessman David Chalmers (search), who runs Houston-based Bay Oil, FOX News has learned. Bay Oil was named in a CIA Iraq report as being one of several American companies that bought oil from the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.

Hyde wants Chalmers to hand over all files relating to any business his company did with Iraq and wants names of whom the oil was bought from and whom it may have been traded to, sources said.

Also getting subpoenas are BNP Paribas, the French bank that handled all Oil-for-Food transactions, as well as Cotecna, the company that won the contract to monitor all humanitarian goods imported into Iraq under the program, FOX News learned. In both cases, the subpoenas seek all documents that might shed light on how and why those two companies won their respective contracts.

In the case of Cotecna, questions have been raised because Annan's son Kojo was a Cotecna employee. That connection is still being probed by Paul Volcker's (search) Independent Inquiry Commission, the panel commissioned by Annan to investigate the program.

Volcker's interim report, published last week, raised questions over how the BNP's contract was awarded, pointing out that then-U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali ignored U.N. rules in the way the contract decision was handled.

Hyde's other focus Wednesday was what is happening in the United Nations beyond Oil-for-Food. He and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., sent a letter to Annan asking for a wide variety of audits into U.N. programs.

FOX News obtained a series of cables to the State Department from the U.S. mission to the United Nations in Geneva, outlining an apparent multimillion-dollar scandal at the World Meteorological Organization (search), a Geneva-based U.N. agency.

According to cables marked "sensitive," a Sudanese U.N. employee apparently skimmed $3 million over a three-year period and up to 15 officials at the agency may be guilty of negligence. But what disturbs congressional advisers even more is a statement from the auditors that: "... WMO's internal procedures were not the worst seen in the U.N. family of organizations."

According to another cable, it was suggested to the WMO that the organization adopt the United Nations' ethics code but internal auditors warned that "given the U.N. code's known weaknesses, WMO ought to set its standards higher."

These latest examples of alleged U.N. mismanagement and corruption were being explored Wednesday at a hearing being held by the House International Relations Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. That hearing may well lay the groundwork for the committee to shift its focus from Oil-for-Food to an investigation of the entire U.N. system.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senate Democratic Leader George Mitchell have been tapped to lead a task force to examine U.N. reform. Both men spoke to reporters on Wednesday; click here to read more.

The various developments greeted Annan's new chief of staff, who was on Capitol Hill meeting with critics and supporters of the United Nations following a critical report of U.N. actions in the Oil-for-Food program.

Mark Malloch Brown (search), who was appointed last month, was likely to find himself under some considerable fire from investigators who now believe that the program may simply be part of a larger pattern of U.N. corruption. Malloch Brown's appointment was seen in some circles as a sign that Annan was serious about reforming the international organization.

A U.N. official told FOX News that Malloch Brown had three goals as he headed to Congress: to open lines of communication, to stress co-operation as much as the United Nations can and to kick-start a conversation on reform.

One of the U.S. lawmakers Malloch Brown is scheduled to meet is Sen. Norm Coleman (search). The Minnesota Republican is leading one U.S. probe into alleged Oil-for-Food wrongdoing and called for Annan's resignation in November, charging that Annan had presided over the "greatest fraud and theft" in the history of the United Nations.

Malloch Brown will also meet Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Coleman's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, who said he had seen no evidence of impropriety by Annan. Levin has called for fresh efforts to "increase transparency, strengthen oversight and build a culture of accountability in the United Nations."

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Malloch Brown's trip is a follow-up to last week's interim report on the program by an investigating team led by Volcker.

His report accused Benon Sevan (search), head of the $64 billion Oil-for-Food program, of conflicts of interest in soliciting oil allocations from Saddam Hussein's regime and Joseph Stephanides (search), who dealt with contracts, of tainting the bidding process. It criticized U.N. management and politicization of the program.

Eckhard said Malloch Brown would "report to the U.S. lawmakers what the United Nations has done in recent years to reform its administrative and management processes."

"It is basically an informational briefing on his part to make them aware of what we have done and what may yet remain to be done as a result of reading Volker's report," the U.N. spokesman said.

Malloch Brown is also scheduled to meet Henry Hyde, the Illinois Republican who heads the House International Relations Committee and has criticized U.N. failures to responsibly administer the program, and Tom Lantos of California, the committee's top Democrat. Lantos has expressed confidence in Annan but predicted the world body will have to clean house over the Oil-for-Food allegations.

California Republican Dana Rohrabacher, who will chair a new House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that will oversee U.S. international activities including U.N. matters, is also on Malloch Brown's schedule, along with the subcommittee's top Democrat, William Delahunt of Massachusetts.

Eckhard said Annan always tries to see members of Congress when he's in Washington.

"He's tried to draw parliamentarians closer to the United Nations generally, that's also been one of his planks of reform, " Eckhard said.

But sending his chief of staff is new.

Malloch Brown, who also still heads the U.N. Development Program, knows Washington well from his years at the World Bank, where he headed the public relations department before coming to the United Nations.

Watch the FOX News Channel on Sunday at 9 p.m. EST for a special "Breaking Point" investigation - "United Nations Blood Money: Kofi Annan Under Fire."

FOX News' Jonathan Hunt, Per Carlson and The associated Press contributed to this report.