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In Timber Scandals Gabon China Links Probed While UN Censors For Amina J. Mohammed Rosewood

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS GATE, July 8 – The UN has dodged Inner City Press questions for more than 20 months about UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed signing thousands of certificates for rosewood already exported from Nigeria and it seems Cameroon to China, just before she took up her UN position. Amid the questioning, Secretary General Antonio Guterres had Inner City Press roughed up and now banned from the UN 370 days.

  Today this from Gabon: port of Owendo on the Libreville peninsula, exports have stagnated for months and warehouses are overflowing.  The trouble began in late February, when customs officials discovered huge quantities of kevazingo, a precious and banned hardwood, in two Chinese-owned depots at Owendo.  READ: Step by step, Africa inches toward 'historic' free trade zone  Nearly 5,000 cubic metres were seized, worth around $8-million, some of it disguised in containers bearing the stamp of the forestry ministry.   Several suspects were arrested, but the plot thickened in April when 353 of the confiscated containers mysteriously disappeared from the port.  The ensuing scandal, dubbed kevazingogate, led to the government sacking the vice president, the forestry minister and several senior civil servants.  But at the UN, not only has there been no accountability - the Press which asked has been roughed up and banned. The UN of Guterres and Amina J. Mohammed is corrupt.

  In the SDNY court which Inner City Press in exile from Guterres' UN now covers, cases of natural resource exploitation are developing. Watch this site.

  Previously, the CITES meeting in Geneva declined China's open and Nigeria's more stealth lobbying to close the case. Then "in response to the dire rosewood crisis in West Africa and particularly in Nigeria, CITES informed its 183 member countries of exceptional control measures." So Inner City Press on January 18 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner city Press: this week, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, has written to its 183 member States saying that, based on what I've previously been asking you about, these Nigerian rosewood certificates signed by the Deputy Secretary-General, that, henceforth, all rosewood certificates issued… permits issued by Nigeria will have to be verified by the Secretariat and that a special mission is being sent to the country.  So, clearly, there's an ongoing issue, and I just want… you'd said throughout that the Deputy Secretary-General answered all questions; there's no questions remaining.  And I think that this seems to indicate that there are still some questions pending.  So, just as to her own… not that… not the overall issue, not… the… the… the… the Environmental Ministry in Nigeria, but her role and knowledge when she signed the 4,000 certificates, do you now… is it now possible that she'll… I can… I'll give you written questions, but will she answer questions given the findings by CITES…? Spokesman:  Listen, she's away.  She'll be back soon.  Whenever… next opportunity to speak to her, you'll be able to ask her the question.  She has… through us and in writing, she has expressed her position on that story and made it clear that she followed the rules.  Whatever investigation or whatever discussion there may be between CITES and the Nigerian Government, that's something you need to follow up with either one of those parties and not me. Inner City Press: But it seems like the reason that they're saying that now all certificates from Nigeria have to be checked with them is that these certificates, they believe, were signed after the wood was already in China, which means it wasn't in compliance with the rules.  That's one of the issues.  I guess…  I don't understand how she…Spokesman:  I think she's been very clear and very transparent with the authorities and with CITES."  Really? She hasn't answered a single Inner City Press questions, while playing her role along with Dujarric and others in keeping it restricted. More from CITES: "From now on, all 'kosso' rosewood permits issued by Nigeria, the world’s largest exporter of rosewood over the past years, will have to be verified by the Secretariat of the Convention and a special CITES mission will soon be sent to the country...the CITES Standing Committee discussed the Nigerian rosewood trafficking crisis during its meeting in Geneva last month. The Committee took a decision that was validated by the Secretariat and officially communicated to all Parties of the Convention – including almost all member states of the United Nations – on January 15, 2018... Millions of rosewood logs were harvested and exported illegally from Nigeria when Amina J. Mohammed, the current Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nation, was Minister of Environment." And she still hasn't answered Inner City Press' questions, including now on the abduction in Nigeria of Cameroon Anglophone leaders in Abuja while she was there. We'll have more on this. On December 4 Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about this CITES decision. He insisted that all questions have been answered, and ended up by running out of the UN briefing room as Inner City Press asked another question. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: You said that she's going to be in Paris on Friday, so I wanted to know, one, is she coming back and then going?  The reason I ask is that now there's been a decision in the convention for the trade in endangered species and the case of the rosewood.  I had the impression from what you'd said it was resolved there.  Nigeria had responded.  All the questions were answered.  But in fact, they've ruled that the case continues, and they said that countries should not rely on Nigerian certification… I can read you the decision, if you want. Spokesman:  I have no doubt on the decision.  Yes, she's coming back here.  She'll be back in the office.  She should be back in the… excuse me… in the office tomorrow.  What I do know is that there's an ongoing dialogue between CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora] and the Nigerian authorities.  As to the Deputy Secretary-General's role, I think I've answered the questions, what I feel is rather exhaustively and clearly to the best of my ability.
Inner City Press:  Well, can you ask her for a comment on the decision?  The decision clearly implies… Spokesman:  I'm not sure that is what it implies, and I think questions having to do with the management of forests in Nigeria rest with the Government of Nigeria. Inner City Press:  The questions are about 4,000 certificates that she signed and whether they violated international environmental law. Spokesman:  "We've answered those questions." No. This scandal will no go away, even if as some predict Mohammed does. Watch this site. The UN becomes less transparent by the day. For more than two weeks UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric had dodged and refused questions from Inner City Press about Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed signing 4,000 certificates for rosewood illegal logged in Cameroon and parts of Nigeria and already in China. Now in the absence of answers a cursory review of the UN's so-called "public disclosure" website finds that Amina Mohammed nine months into her tenure as Deputy SG has not filed any disclosure: she is not even listed. This stands in contrast, for example, to the UN's envoy to Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto, who signed his Public Disclosure form on October 23, 2017 (Residential property, joint ownership, Japan; Mortgage, Mitsui Sumitomo Bank, Japan) and another of the few Japanese UN high officials,  Izumi Nakamitsu who signed her Public Disclosure form on January 18, 2017 (Two residential properties, joint ownership, Sweden; Mortgage, Handelsbanken, jointly held, Sweden). In other murky news, after Secretary General Antonio Guterres went to Lisbon for four days (while spokesman Dujarric refused Press requests to disclosure the cost of that trip, like Amina Mohammed's to Cape Town), he will soon travel to Japan, for a merely regional health conference. We'll have more on this. As to Mohammed, the export to China of illegally harvested rosewood, reported on by Le Monde on November 3 with reference to UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed who signed the certificates, also involves "smuggling from Cameroon." See EIA video, here. This may put a new light on the UN's inaction on the Cameroonian government's killings and Internet cut off in the Anglophone zones. Cameroon's Ambassador to the UN, while saying he'd call upstairs to ensure Inner City Press couldn't go there any more (the UN's Department of Public Information did threaten Inner City Press' accreditation for Periscope broadcasting in connection with photo ops on the 38th floor), also bragged that the DSG's opposition to separatism in Biafra led to the same position on Cameroon. And just as UN envoy Chambas went and preached One Nigeria, failing UN envoy Francois Fall called Southern Cameroons secessionists "extremists," on DPI's UN Radio no less. They say in journalism, Follow the Money. But in this case it may be, Follow the Rosewood, or Kosso.  In terms of money: Joe Biden appeared at the UN on November 3, and tables were sold for up to $50,000. One might think, after the proved corruption of the UN in the Ng Lap Seng / John Ashe trial for events in this same Delegates Dining Room, charging this kind of money for sitting with  a “senior UN official” would be a thing of the past. Or after Antonio Guterres was questioned after taking a golden statue from Paul Biya, the 35-year rules of Cameroon. But no. On November 6, Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed appeared, took an award and gave a speech at an event in Washington for which $25,000 sponsorships were offered, here, by a publication which covers and is promoted by the UN (while following up on November 9 on Le Monde's November 3 story, no mention of Cameroon.) On November 9, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press; as you know or you or Farhan [Haq] had said, she just recently received the Diplomat of the Year Award from Foreign Policy down in DC. Was she aware of this story being in preparation when she accepted the award? Often, to receive the award, you have to be present.  How long were the discussions? Spokesman:  I think some of those questions should be addressed to Foreign Policy.  She was fully aware that the story was going to come out when she received the award." No Cameroon. Ban Ki-moon allowed the corruption of Ng Lap Seng, and Antonio Guterres has done thing to reverse it. In fact, Guterres left through the same door Biden came in, one hour before, using public funds to fly to his home in Lisbon, using a 15 minutes speech there on Monday to justify a three day UN paid junket. And his spokesman refused to answer questions, even about his one on one lunches on the 38th floor, where Inner City Press' use of Periscope during photo ops has allowed Guterres' DPI under Alison Smale to threaten its accreditation. All of this takes place while Guterres covers up mass killing in Cameroon, and is prepared to be sold himself, on Wall Street no less. We'll have more on this. On November 2, Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced that "on Monday, the Secretary-General will be in Lisbon to participate in the Web Summit 2017, which brings together the leaders of key Internet companies with officials from different Governments.  You are aware of the attention the Secretary-General has been devoting to the uses of the Internet." Really? Guterres was silent for example when Cameroon cut off the Internet for 94 days this year; his Department of Public Information has threatened Inner City Press' accreditation for unspecified violation by live-streaming a Guterres photo op using Twitter's Periscope platform. But why did Guterres take this speaking gig, which it turns out is for only 15 minutes at 7:25 pm on the evening of Monday, November 6? Inner City Press asked Dujarric, who refused to state with whom Guterres had a formal lunch meeting in the UN dining room with UN funds on November 3, where Guterres will be on Saturday and Sunday. Dujarric replied: "sg will be in lisbon over the weekend." It sure seems like that's why he took the Lisbon speaking gig. And in fact, even before 5 pm on Friday, November 3, Guterres left the UN with bodyguards, in a three-car convoy. Who is paying for all this? On October 27, after Guterres' spokespeople stonewalled Inner City Press for three days on his plans for a grip and grin meeting in a Cameroon airport with Paul Biya, who has killed hundreds this year as well as cutting the Internet Guterres loves so much, they also refused to say how Guterres personal, or shall we say Lisbon-focused, travel is paid for, and how much it costs. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: If he goes to Lisbon, Portugal, does he take UN security with him?  In which case, where do they stay, and what are the costs?  How are they borne? Deputy Spokesman:  However he does his stopovers, he does it at the least cost to the UN.  And a lot of times, what that means is traveling with a smaller delegation, and it also means traveling on commercial flights.  He does take specific steps, and he's been very conscientious over these months of making sure that he travels with as slim a delegation as he has. Inner City Press: My question is just who's paying for his security if he goes to Lisbon?  And also I'm aware that he sent some people in advance to CAR.  They didn't travel with him, but they were actually part of the party.  So is there an attempt to bifurcate traveling trips so that some people are not considered to be traveling with him.  For example, the UN photographer, I'm aware, went days in advance.  Why was that?
Deputy Spokesman:  Well, sometimes advance teams go out when it's needed to do that.  For us, in terms of the Department of Public Information, there are many times when it's useful for us to send our media crews in advance to get different coverage for the sort of pieces and features that they do.  Inner City Press: Can we just get the cost?  It's a straight transparency question. Deputy Spokesman:  The costs of travel are calculated over the year and shared with the Member States, and that's how we do it.  All right.  Have a good weekend, everyone." Antonio sure will - on the public dime. Back on July 29, the day after guilty verdicts on six counts of UN bribery in the case of Ng Lap Seng, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres flew to Split for a seven day vacation on the Dalmatian islands, according to sources there. Guterres' spokespeople did not disclose the travel or any week-long absence to the press covering the UN, at least not to the Press evicted and still restricted for covering Ng's bribery. This lack of transparency stands in contrast to the executive branch in Washington and even New York routinely disclosing travel including vacation travel. But the UN has no press protections either - Guterres has been asked. Meanwhile his spokespeople says the UN should get paid for the UNreformed corruption shown in the Ng trial and verdict. We'll have more on this. When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on July 27 had a brief meeting with Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Qatar state media and other UN based photographers went up. Alamy photos here. There were complaints how short the handshake was; Inner City Press noted that on the UN side of the table were only four people, all men, including Jeffrey Feltman. Periscope video here. Guterres was scheduled to be at another meeting in 25 minutes time. So will the UN help solve the stand-off in the Gulf? It seems unlikely. The UN never answered Inner City Press' questions of if Feltman had visited Saudi Arabia and if not, why not. Back on July 19 Guterres.had a meeting and photo op with Spain's Foreign Minister Alfonso María Dastis Quecedo. Inner City Press went to cover it, Alamy photos here, Periscope video here including of whether Dastis should write "una poema" in the UN visitors' book. Inner City Press barely arriving on time due to the crowd of tourists at the UN's visitors entrance. It has been this way since Spain's now-gone Under Secretary General Cristina Gallach had Inner City Press evicted from and still restricted at the UN after Inner City Press asked her about attending indicted Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng's South South Awards, and allowing Ng fundees improper events in the UN. Although Guterres did not continue Gallach's contract - she lobbied to stay, but failed - her negative impacts are still in evidence. The Spanish Mission to the UN, now off the Security Council, likewise did nothing to reign Gallach in. But surely they are lobbying Guterres to get another Under Secretary General position, even as their Fernando Arias Gonzalez runs against six others to head the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. We'll have more on this. The day before on July 18 Guterres had a meeting and photo op with the Dominican Republic's Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas Maldonado (Alamy photos here, Periscope video here); it came one day after in the UN bribery case against Ng Lap Seng a video of then
then-President Leonel Fernandez Reyna visiting South South News near the UN was discussed. That video is here. South South News was a bribery conduit, its funds used for gambling by Dominican Deputy Permanent Representative Francis Lorenzo in Las Vegas and Atlantic City while the UN's Department of Public Information let SSN's content into UNTV archives and let Ng fundees have impermissible events in the UN. On July 18, Guterres' Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq refused to answer Inner City Press' yes or no questions about South South News and the UN. After the July 18 photo op, Inner City Press had nowhere to edit - for seeking to cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room in pursuing the UN / SSN corruption story, Inner City Press was evicted and still restricted. The 38th floor apparently loves it. On July 10 Guterres has a photo op with Colombia's Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar. It was supposed to be in his office in UN Headquarters at 4:30 pm. But on little notice he moved it to his - make that, the UN and the public's - mansion on Sutton Place and 57th Street, at 4 pm. Inner City Press jumped on the city bus up First Avenue, broadcasting a Periscope video about the change, when suddenly it was urged to stop broadcasting by a board member of the UN Correspondents Association, which Guterres' deputy spoke before last week and whose former president Giampaolo Pioli's Hampton's gratiuty-fest the UN acting head of Public Information Maher Nasser attended, the UN Censorship Alliance. This is today's UN. Still, up on Sutton Place UN Security brought up a sniffing dog in a UN 4x4, and two quick photos were allowed before Guterres escorted Holguin onto "his" elevator.  Back at the UN, the door to the UN Security Council stakeout was locked, and the turnstile where targeting Inner City Press' ID pass no longer works was guarded by new UN Security who didn't even recognize the UN minder. Still, we got this Periscope, despite UN censorship which continues. 


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