Former High-Ranking U.N. Official Convicted of Laundering Bribes

A former Russian diplomat who once chaired the powerful United Nations budget oversight committee was convicted Wednesday of conspiring with a U.N. procurement officer to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars from foreign companies seeking U.N. contracts.

Vladimir Kuznetsov, 49, was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering by a jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan after less than a day of deliberations.

Kuznetsov was charged in 2005 after an internal U.N. investigation of Alexander Yakovlev, a Russian who worked in the U.N. procurement office. Yakovlev pleaded guilty in federal court in 2005 to soliciting a bribe, wire fraud and money laundering.

As part of a cooperation deal, Yakovlev had admitted accepting nearly $1 million (euro760,000) in bribes from U.N. contractors. He testified against Kuznetsov.

Prosecutors said Kuznetsov in 2000 established an offshore company to hide criminal proceeds from Yakovlev, who received secret payments from foreign companies seeking contracts to provide goods and services to the United Nations.

Prosecutors said the procurement officer provided the companies with confidential and other information from the United Nations about the contracts.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had waived Kuznetsov's immunity at the request of U.S. authorities.