How Close Was Kojo Annan to Oil-for-Food?
NEW YORK – U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said his son had nothing to do with U.N. business, but it now seems that Kojo Annan (search) at least was shadowing his father and perhaps trading on his last name for an Oil-for-Food contractor.
The younger Annan worked for Cotecna Inspection S.A. (search), a Swiss company that inspected items going into Iraq on behalf of the Oil-for-Food program. Both the company and Kofi Annan (search) have said there was no conflict of interest, and that Kojo Annan had nothing to do with the troubled U.N. program.
But now investigators are looking into memos that show Kojo Annan followed his father to U.N. gatherings around the globe and met with diplomats and heads of state on behalf of Cotecna.
For example, in 1998 the secretary-general went to Nigeria to persuade the military leaders to release political prisoners. The memos show that at the same time, Kojo Annan — who was based in Nigeria for Cotecna — did company business during his father’s trip and may have gotten access to key players because of his family connection.
Annan said Monday he was "very disappointed and surprised" that his son had continued to receive payments from Cotecna until 10 months ago. Annan told reporters that he had been working on the understanding that the payments stopped in 1998 "and I had not expected that the relationship continued."
The secretary-general stressed that his son was an independent businessman "and I don't get involved with his activities and he doesn't get involved in mine."
But expense forms submitted by Kojo Annan suggest a possible father-son involvement. The company recently turned over the documents to congressional committees under a subpoena.
According to records reviewed by The New York Post, Kojo Annan, while working for Cotecna, enjoyed extraordinary access to U.N. diplomats and other international dignitaries because of his father's position.
The documents indicate that Kojo Annan was clearly trading on his father's name to win business for Cotecna, where he worked from 1995 to 1998.
Congress and an independent panel headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker are investigating Cotecna for possibly allowing Saddam Hussein to evade sanctions, as well as irregularities with its U.N. contract.
In one billing memo, Kojo Annan requested compensation for eight days of work in July 1998 — including six days "during my father's visit to Nigeria."
In New York in September 1998, Kojo Annan also held a series of meetings with heads of state and government ministers — primarily from Africa — to drum up business for Cotecna Inspection Services SA during the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly.
Three months after Annan's New York visit, in late December, Cotecna won the $4.8 million contract as the lowest bidder.
In one invoice, the younger Annan, who was then a marketing consultant for Cotecna, billed the company $500 a day for a 15-day trip to New York for "U.N. General Assembly and various meetings relating to other special projects."
The invoice indicates he was trying to help Cotecna win contracts in Nigeria and other African countries. Investigators said they do not know what other "special projects" Annan was referring to.
The bill also included a trip to Durban, South Africa, a few weeks earlier when Annan attended a second U.N-sponsored meeting of African members of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Kojo Annan reported in a memo to Cotecna executives that at that session "many contacts were established at the presidential and political levels, ministerial levels and with certain influential people in the private sector" in order to market the company, which functions as a private customs service.
Ginny Wolfe, a spokeswoman for Cotecna, confirmed to the Post on Wednesday that the younger Annan was sent to U.N. meetings in New York and South Africa to lobby African leaders on the company's behalf.
But she said that "at no time" was Kojo Annan involved in any discussions about the upcoming Oil-for-Food contract.
FOX News' Eric Shawn and The New York Post contributed to this report.