UNITED NATIONS – A senior investigator in the United Nations' internal anti-corruption office has been suspended after trying to probe what he thought was the black box from a 1994 plane crash that killed the presidents of Rwanda (search) and Burundi.
Juvenal Habyarimana (search) of Rwanda and Burundi's Cyprian Ntayamira (search) were among the 10 people on the aircraft when it went down April 6, 1994. Rwanda's genocide began the evening the plane was shot down and many credit that incident with sparking the killing spree that left about 800,000 people dead in the tiny central African nation.
Francois Pascal, a senior investigator in the Office of Internal Oversight Services (search), was looking into the crash when he found that his boss, Undersecretary General Dileep Nair (search), recommended he be suspended. Pascal was suspended in April, a month after a black box was discovered at U.N. headquarters.
Earlier this year, an unidentified person discovered the flight recorder locked in a drawer in the U.N.'s air safety unit in New York and officials initially believe it came from the 1994 crash. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the discovery a "first-class foul-up."
But a private firm and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (search) in Washington later determined that the flight recorder wasn't from the plane.
Pascal's alleged offense was breaching U.N. confidentiality because he spoke to someone outside the United Nations about the investigation, a source with knowledge of the case said.
The oversight office issued a report about the black box. The report said U.N. staff at the time did not analyze the recorder or report its existence to senior officials because the box was in such "good condition."
Pascal, who was suspended with pay, is now awaiting disciplinary proceedings. He told Fox News he could not comment publicly because of the pending proceedings.
On Tuesday, Fox News reported that Nair is himself at the center of corruption allegations that have rocked his department. Nair told Fox News he had done nothing wrong but said he would step down if a U.N. investigation found problems in the Office of Internal Oversight Services.
The U.N. Staff Union (search), a group representing the rights of U.N. employees, is concerned that Nair targeted Pascal because he was making waves over controversial recruitment and promotions decisions Nair made.
Nair had little to say about Pascal when was interviewed by Fox News.
"It was to do an investigation that we were, that we were undertaking at that point in time. And because it is a subject of an administrative, judicial inquiry, again we would not want to comment on it because it is sub-judice," Nair said.
The questions surrounding Nair and his office come at a time when an internal U.N. report of staff attitudes revealed that many workers at the United Nations fear there is no protection for anyone who tries to expose corruption.
Plus, they've surfaced while the United Nations has been forced to appoint an outside investigator to probe the Iraqi oil-for-food program (search) and determine whether money from the multi-billion dollar program was stolen.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.