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UN slams convicted procurement fraudster for trying to claim benefits

EXCLUSIVE: Alexander Yakovlev, a former United Nations procurement officer who was convicted of fraud during the oil-for-food scandal, has gotten a brusque thumbs-down after he demanded that the U.N. pay his way back to Russia after he served time for his decades-old crimes.

On Monday, a U.N. dispute tribunal rejected what it called a “vexacious” claim by  Yakovlev, a key figure in the scandal. Yakovlev claimed that the U.N. owed him separation benefits -- including air fares, moving allowances and a “repatriation grant”-- given to regular U.N. employees when they end their service.

Yakovlev said that he had been unable to claim those benefits within a two-year allowable window after he left the U.N. due to “force majeure” -- circumstances beyond his control.

In his case, the circumstances amounted to his arrest, detention, and subsequent sentencing in a New York court for his role in the biggest procurement scandal in U.N. history, after a Fox News story in 2005 uncovered his secret offshore bank account -- illegal under U.N. rules.

Yakovlev abruptly resigned from the U.N. little more than a day after the story appeared -- a move that kept him from having to testify to U.N. investigators.

Later that year, Yakovlev, a 20-year U.N. veteran and Russian national, pleaded guilty in a New York criminal court for pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees while illegally steering millions of dollars in U.N. contracts to foreign firms over the previous 12 years.

“The applicant completely misled the Tribunal.”

- Judge Goolam Meeran

After cooperating with U.S. authorities -- which led to the arrest of a higher-ranked Russian diplomat, Vladimir Kuznetsov, for sharing in the huge scam -- Yakovlev was sentenced in December 2010 to two years of “supervised release” that ended in January 2013.

Four months later, according to U.N. court documents, he launched a plea to be treated like any other U.N. employee who had ended his service, claiming that his long delay in claiming his separation allowances “was due to what he described were ‘insurmountable circumstances’ that were beyond his control,” according to court documents.

To buttress his claims, Yakovlev said that he and his wife were poverty-stricken and couldn’t afford to return home without the benefits. He also argued that he wasn’t asking for anything except what “every U.N. staffer is entitled to.”

The U.N. turned him down, but also said it would consider paying for his airline tickets if Yakovlev could back up his claim to poverty.

(At the time of his arrest, Yakovlev was a resident of the New York suburb of Yonkers. Tax rolls for Yonkers in 2014 still list Alexander Yakovlev and his wife Olga as owners of a residence valued at $557,377.  

Yakovlev launched his U.N. lawsuit instead.

Two years later, after wending through a legal thicket of U.N. rules on the benefits subject, a U.N. judge declared that Yakovlev not only did not have a claim, but had fraudulently launched his lawsuit when he had already gotten the U.N. to say it would pay at least for airline tickets home if the Russian could back up his assertion that he was destitute.

“The applicant completely misled the Tribunal,” declared Judge Goolam Meeran in a 14-page decision, by omitting the U.N.’s ticket offer -- what the judge called a “surprisingly generous humanitarian gesture”-- in his original complaint.

Nor, said the judge, did the Russian mention that, among other things, the delay in claiming his benefits was caused by “his criminal activity against the same organization he was to serve with the highest standards of efficiency and integrity.”

As a result, said Judge Meeran, Yakovlev “clearly abused the proceedings” and squandered the tribunal’s “valuable resources and time.” The judge ordered him to pay $5,000 in court costs.

CLICK HERE FOR THE JUDGMENT

If he chooses to take it, Yakovlev still has one avenue of appeal:  to a U.N. Appeals Tribunal also located in New York.

Yakovlev could not be reached for comment. A telephone call to the number associated with his residence was answered by a man who declared he was not Yakovlev, and said he was “not interested” in talking with Fox News.

George Russell is editor-at-large of Fox News and can be found on Twitter @GeorgeRussell.

Rachel Feldman contributed to this story

Click here for more stories by George Russell.

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