Oil-for-Food Paper Shredder Still Shredding
UNITED NATIONS – The man who abruptly retired as Kofi Annan's cabinet chief after shredding papers related to the Oil-for-Food (search) program has been shredding still more documents at the United Nations, an eyewitness told FOX News.
Iqbal Riza (search ), who has been working on a $1-a-year salary as a special advisor to Annan, has been shredding large quantities of unknown documents in his new 10th-floor U.N. office across the street from the U.N. Secretariat building, the source said.
According to the eyewitness, a U.N. staffer who works on the same floor as Riza, the retired cabinet chief arrived within days of leaving his old job, loaded down with many cartons of papers and files.
Riza was not in his new office daily, but every day he appeared, he would put large numbers of material through an office shredder located in a public area.
"It became the office joke," said the eyewitness, who did not wish to be identified for fear of reprisals from superiors. No one knew what the documents were, the eyewitness said.
Annan's office would neither confirm nor deny the fresh round of destruction. A spokesman for the secretary-general told FOX News that Riza was now working as a special adviser on a newly launched project to foster dialogue between the Islamic and Western worlds.
"As part of his work on the Alliance of Civilizations ... he may have had to routinely destroy documents related to that project," the spokesman said.
The spokesman said that all material previously in Riza's possession related to Oil-for-Food remained in Annan's office.
Riza has not returned calls to FOX News for comment. A U.N. spokesman said he was out of the country.
Before becoming Annan's top aide, Riza was a Pakistani diplomat who had worked at the United Nations for more than 25 years.
On Dec. 22, Annan announced that Riza would be retiring from his position effective Jan. 15. Annan said he agreed to Riza's departure "with very mixed emotions," saying "he ... has always provided me with wise and trusted counsel."
One fact undisclosed at the time of Annan's announcement was that it came on the same day Riza admitted to investigators with the Independent Inquiry Committee (search) into the Oil-for-Food program that he had destroyed documents related to the program.
Two days before, when first interviewed by investigators for IIC Chairman Paul Volcker (search), he did not tell them that he approved the destruction of three years worth of documents. But when he did admit to shredding documents, he described them as being duplicates — a point the IIC would eventually dispute in a March 29 report.
"The committee does not find persuasive Mr. Riza's suggestion that his 'chron' files [chronological records] were only duplicates of files maintained elsewhere at the United Nations," the IIC report states.
Read the full report by clicking here (pdf).
Volcker's panel was commissioned by Annan to investigate the multi-billion-dollar program, which aimed to relieve Iraqi civilians from some effects of the sanctions imposed on Iraq after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.
Saddam allegedly gave former government officials, activists, journalists and U.N. officials vouchers for Iraqi oil that could be resold. Investigators claim the former Iraqi regime may have illegally made more than $21 billion by cheating the program and through other sanctions-busting schemes.
Among those accused of asking Saddam's regime for vouchers worth millions is Benon Sevan, hand-picked by Annan to run the entire Oil-for-Food program.