EXCLUSIVE: Nearly a year after a top United Nations official was found by investigators to have fraudulently obtained a Kenyan government weapons permit-a crime under local law -the official still holds his high-ranking post in the U.N.'s regional Nairobi headquarters, despite several appeals to have him punished.
The battle over a major infraction of local law by a senior U.N. official offers a small but revealing window into the byzantine processes of the United Nations, where wrongdoing can lead to lengthy investigations followed by not much else-- when high-ranking officials from influential countries are involved.
In this case the gun-toting individual is Russian-born Alexander Barabanov, who was-and is-the director of administrative services in the United Nations Office in Nairobi, or UNON, the U.N.'s most important regional outpost in Africa and one of its most important offices around the world.
The person who campaigned hardest to have action taken against Barabanov is Anna Tibaijuka, at the time the director-general of the Nairobi headquarters, and thus Barabanov's ostensible boss. But Tibaijuka was abruptly removed from her director-general job by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on March 1, and replaced by a less senior official.
Tibaijuka, who is also head of the U.N. housing agency, U.N.-Habitat, was one of the highest-ranking women in the U.N. system, and the first African woman appointed to a top-level U.N. post. She retains her Habitat title.
Her replacement as head of the important Nairobi office, the center for the U.N.'s global environmental and housing efforts, is a male: Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environmental Program, who ranks lower than Tibaijuka in terms of seniority.
Steiner was originally given his UNEP position in 2006 by then Secretary-General Kofi Annan, after Steiner, as a juror for the Zayed International Prize for the Environment, helped to give a $500,000 award to the U.N. chief that same year. There was nothing illegal about the award, and Annan later said he would use the money in a private foundation to aid African women, among other things.
There was no public announcement of Tibaijuka's demotion and Steiner's ascension in the UNON position, though the changeover was marked by small local staff protests. Questions to Steiner, via an aide, about the transfer of authority went unanswered.
In the Barabanov case, documents obtained by FOX News show repeated efforts by Tibaijuka to prod higher-ranking U.N. officials in New York to take action against the Russian, including his removal from office, after an investigation in April 2008 concluded that he and the Nairobi office's chief security officer had "improperly" put Barabanov's name on a gun permit list submitted to Kenyan authorities. Fraudulently obtaining a gun permit in Kenya is a crime punishable by up to a year in jail.
Barabanov had no official reason to carry a weapon, but according to investigators, had told U.N. security officials he wanted one for target practice.
The report, authored by investigators from the U.N.'s Office of Internal Oversight Services, recommended that "appropriate action" be taken against both men.
The security officer was subsequently issued with a letter of reprimand for another, less serious infraction of U.N. rules that did not involve the gun permit, but in the case of Barabanov, whatever happened to him, if anything, has never been revealed.
Contacted by FOX News about the case, Barabanov declined to comment.
Barabanov continues at his post despite the fact that in June, 2008, Tibaijuka herself wrote to Angela Kane, the U.N.'s Under-Secretary-General for management, to complain about him and ask that he be transferred out of Nairobi. In that letter, she outlined a litany of other complaints about Barabanov, including Kenyan government requests that he be removed from the country for "alleged rude behavior."
Tibaijuka noted that the original OIOS report recommended that she take action against Barabanov herself, but, she said she did not have "delegated authority" to do that.
Tibaijuka said that she had also written to the United Nations' Office of Legal Affairs for guidance on her obligation to report the unauthorized gun permit to Kenyan authorities, out of concern that if news of the illegality leaked, "the United Nations would be faced with explaining why it did not report such criminal act to the government."
In her letter to Kane, Tibaijuka did not divulge the legal office's reply.
Tibaijuka had made similar written requests to Kane's predecessor, Alicia Barcena, to take action against Barabanov, notably in a letter dated May 9, 2008. In that message, Tibaijuka declared that "given the seriousness of the allegations [against Barabanov], one needs to be cognizant that not bringing charges against them may be perceived as an example of the Administration condoning such behavior."
Questions about Barabanov's infraction and the U.N.'s reaction to it were sent by FOX News to Kane, who supervises Barabanov's operations position. Those questions went answered by U.N. Spokesman Farhan Haq, who confirmed that an OIOS investigation of an unnamed official had taken place in Nairobi on complaints of "the alleged improper issuance of firearms permits." According to Haq, "the findings and conclusions of the investigation have been carefully reviewed by the Organization and appropriate action has been taken in relation to OIOS's recommendations."
George Russell is executive editor of Fox News