Lawyers: Kojo Annan Says Criticism Unfair

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's (search) son believes he has been unfairly criticized in an official report on the awarding of a U.N. Oil-for-Food contract to a company for which he worked, his lawyers said in a statement Wednesday.

Kojo Annan (search), who lives and works in Lagos, directed all inquiries to his legal team when contacted through a friend who plays rugby with him in his upscale residential neighborhood, Ikoyi.

His London (search) lawyers said he "believes the report is unfair in its criticism of him ... and is currently considering what options are open to him in relation to the report."

A colleague at the Lagos offices of the oil-trading firm for which he now works, Petroleum Projects International, said Kojo Annan was unavailable Wednesday.

A friend of Kojo Annan, who spoke on condition of anonymity saying he wanted to avoid spoiling his relationship with the secretary-general's son, said Kojo Annan's office at Petroleum Projects International, a trading company in this OPEC member state, was decorated with expensive artwork and that Kojo Annan drove a luxury sport utility vehicle.

Investigators probing the U.N. Oil-for-Food program said Tuesday that Kofi Annan didn't interfere in the awarding of a December 1998 contract to Cotecna Inspection S.A. of Switzerland, which employed Kojo Annan at the time.

But the report also accused Cotecna and Kojo Annan of trying to conceal their relationship after the firm was awarded the contract. In a letter attached to the report, William R. Taylor, one of a team of lawyers working for Kojo Annan, acknowledged his client had not told his father the entire truth regarding Cotecna.

The report said that after a British newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph, reported the link between Kojo Annan and Cotecna in January 1999, "Cotecna disguised its continuing relationship with Kojo Annan by routing the payments that were made to him" through three different companies on instructions from the secretary-general's son.

Kojo Annan worked for Cotecna in West Africa from 1995 to December 1997, and then was a consultant for the firm until the end of 1998 — when it won the Oil-for-Food contract. He remained on the Cotecna payroll until 2004 on a contract to prevent him from working for a competitor in West Africa.

The Cotecna case is not the first of Kojo Annan's business deals to attract controversy. Nigeria's This Day newspaper reported in 2000 that Kojo Annan was a director of an Isle-of-Man registered company, Air Harbour Technologies, which won a contract to build an international airport in Harare, Zimbabwe.

This Day quoted opponents of Zimbabwean President Mugabe as saying the bidding process was not transparent and that Air Harbour Technologies only won because of backing from Mugabe's nephew Leo Mugabe. The chairman of the company, Hani Yamani — himself the son of a former Saudi oil minister — said in the newspaper that the contract had been won fairly.

Although from Ghana, Kojo Annan is currently living in Lagos, the largest city in sub-Saharan Africa, with over 13 million residents. His upscale Ikoyi neighborhood is predominantly middle- and upper-class but still suffers from constant power blackouts, stifling traffic jams and a fear of crime, which keeps residents behind gates topped with barbed wire.