UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations' Monday announcement that it will look into whether a longtime official violated conflict-of-interest rules did more than draw attention to the man's possible wrongdoing — it also raised questions about how the world body investigates itself.
The world body's decision to investigate procurement officer Alexander Yakovlev (search) was prompted by a FOX News investigation into the staffer. Yakovlev, who handles tens of millions of dollars' worth of contracts for a variety of U.N. operations, is entwined in an apparent father-son conflict of interest similar to the one that engulfed Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) and his son Kojo.
Yakovlev's son, Dmitry, worked for a company called IHC Services, Ltd. (search), and the firm represents companies trying to secure U.N. contracts.
IHC's Chief Executive Officer Ezio Testa told FOX News that he gave Dmitry Yakovlev a job because his father asked him to, a move that came only months after the older Yakovlev worked on a $1.2 million procurement contract with the company.
After the FOX News report, which was published Monday, the United Nations said its Office of Internal Oversight Services is probing Yakovlev. But U.N. officials revealed little else about the investigation, except that it is confined to the conflict-of-interest allegation. According to a U.N. spokesman, Yakovlev will continue to work during the investigation.
The most recent head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, Dileep Nair (search), is under investigation himself for charges of sexually harassing staff; his replacement is not scheduled to take over until mid-July.
As for the investigation by Paul Volcker into the Oil-for-Food (search) program, even though testimony by Yakovlev was important in two interim reports his committee has issued, a Volcker spokesman will not say whether the Yakovlev allegations will inspire the committee to take a second look at his testimony.
FOX News' own investigation raised questions that went beyond the father-son relationship with IHC, including the discovery that Alexander Yakovlev's wife, Olga, was issued a Visa credit card from a bank in the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda, which has strict bank secrecy laws.
The card was in the name of a company called Moxyco Ltd., and was supplied to Olga Yakovlev by Maritime International, a firm that helps individuals create offshore corporations and bank accounts. When FOX News tried to obtain an explanation from her about this financial arrangement, Olga Yakovlev said to talk to her husband, who will not agree to an interview unless Annan permits him to. That permission has not yet been granted.