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IMF Says "No Agreement" With Sri Lanka, Meets in Hungary, Omits Bulgaria, Angola and Chavez Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 4, updated -- The International Monetary Fund's lack of transparency is matched by its claims to be transparent. Take for example the IMF's arrangement with Sri Lanka, where parliament has been suspended and the state of emergency extended.

  Two weeks ago, Inner City Press submitted three questions to the IMF's briefing. Spokesman David Hawley did not take any of the questions on camera. Afterwards, and after complains, two of the three questions were answered, but not the one on Sri Lanka: "With an IMF team in Sri Lanka, what is the IMF's thinking on the EU's suspension of the GSP Plus tariff treatment, and/or the arrest of opposition politician Sarath Fonseka?"

  On March 4, Inner City Press submitted five questions, some repeatedly. Spokesperson Caroline Atkinson read out her own summary of the question, about the third tranche of the IMF's loan, and then said that the IMF "mission returned from Sri Lanka," we don't have an agreement, we don't expect the third tranche to be released."

  Then Ms. Atkinson said, I understand we have more online questions, we'll wait for technology. See transcript below.

  But it appears that the delay is not technology related, but rather consists of IMF staff screening and editing the questions that are submitted. Of Inner City Press' four other questions, only one was mentioned by Ms. Aktinson. Inner City Press had submitted, "In Hungary, why did the IMF meet with opposition party Fidesz? What was discussed? Fidesz says the discussions concerned the deficit, and if Fidesz comes to power in the April elections -- is that true?"

  Ms. Atkinson read only part of the question, then said that such meetings are "common... an exchange of views." But the opposition party said it had an agreement with the IMF. Shouldn't the IMF respond?

IMF's Strauss Kahn at bully pulpit, Bulgaria and Angola answers not shown

  Inner City Press submitted for the IMF's response this quote last week from Hugo Chavez: ""When Venezuela used to get financing, the IMF would come here and impose conditions and rules, and sometimes it would even dismantle our laws. But now, with China and Venezuela, we're on equal footing." But they woudn't even acknowledge, much less respond to, the request for a reaction.
Update: after the expiration of the IMF's embargo and the publication of the above, an IMF spokesperson replied, "I have nothing for you on this. However, I can confirm that Venezuela and China are both members of the IMF. "

  Two of the submitted questions were either not passed on to Ms. Atkinson, or were omitted by her and she said there are no more questions:

On Angola, is the IMF any closer to assigning a resident representative to Luanda? What progress has Angola made to the transparency discussed by the IMF, particularly in the oil sector?

Bulgarian Finance Minister Simeon Djankov says he's asked the IMF to inform him whether Greek owned banks are "draining funds from their Bulgarian units" - can the IMF confirm the request, if so will it respond in the 3 weeks given, and separately what does it think of this "draining" issue?

  This Bulgaria / Greece question, Inner City Press submitted repeatedly. But it was not acknowledged.

Update: after the briefing was over, an IMF spokesman wrote to Inner City Press that "I’ve asked Olga to get back to you on this. Not familiar with this request. We’re checking." Olga would seen to be Olga Stankova, Senior Press Officer. Numerous publicly available article quote Bulgarian officials about their request to the IMF.

 Of those few journalists present in person at the IMF's briefing, many of the questions were about Greece: would there be a meeting is DC? No.

  There were questions about Iceland and Ukraine, an expression of condolance for Chile, dodging on gold. Mr. Strauss-Kahn will be in Kenya, with Bob Geldoff and Raila Odinga., then on to Zambia. What about Angola? Watch this site.

Update: Later on Thursday, the following on Angola:

Subject: Angola
From: Thomson, Alistair at IMF
To: Inner City Press
Date: Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 5:15 PM

Matthew, Thanks for your question on Angola. We are in the process of considering possible candidates for the post of resident representative. On your second question, fiscal transparency is a key part of the authorities' economic program agreed with the Fund. A mission is currently in the field to conduct the first review of the stand-by agreement.

We will continue to follow all this. Watch this site.

From the IMF's transcript:

Ms. Atkinson: I have a question online about the IMF's third tranche to Sri Lanka due in March. I believe we have announced that the mission's return from Sri Lanka that we don't have an agreement with them so we don't expect that the third tranche will be released at least until we have an agreement with them.I understand there are more online questions so we have to wait for technology....

I wanted to go to a question that I'd had online about Hungary. He was asking if there was significance in the mission meeting with the opposition party when they were there. I wanted to note that it's common practice that we will meet with — and this has happened before — that we've met with the opposition party, and of course there were no negotiations with people who were not in the government, but an informal exchange of views.

* * *

Denying Corruption of Citigroup and BofA, Obiangs Cite Obama, ExxonMobil's Investment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 15 -- Ten days after the release by the U.S. Senate of a reporting on evasion by the son of Equatorial Guinea's President for Life Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue of anti-money laundering controls by and at Citigroup, Bank of America, Wachovia / Wells Fargo and others, the Obiang regime fired back, calling the report racist and citing in its defense the election of Barack Obama.
  Inner City Press is putting the Obiangs' memo online, here.

  The Senate report exhaustively shows how Teodorin and his lawyers moved tens of millions of dollars through Citibank and Wachovia (owned by Wells Fargo since the financial meltdown), and used accounts at Bank of America, City National and other banks. The report described how Teodorin

"brought over $100 million into the United States using wire transfer systems at just two U.S. financial institutions, Wachovia Bank and Citibank. Neither system had been programmed to detect or block wire transfers bearing his name. In 2009... Citibank declined to take the same action due to projections that identifying, freezing, and investigating these wire transfers would generate too much work for its anti-money laundering staff...From 2004 to 2007, Mr. Obiang used accounts at three U.S. banks, Union Bank of California, Bank of America, and Citibank, often with Mr. Berger’s assistance, to deposit, transfer and spend nearly $10 million. Most of these funds were wire transferred from accounts in Equatorial Guinea held in the name of Mr. Obiang or two EG companies he controlled, Somagui Forestal and Socage."

  To this, the Government of Equatorial Guinea in a communique sent to the Press on February 15, the President's Day holiday in the U.S., argues that

"According to Equatoguinean legislation, as occurs exactly in the most of the world, the natural and legal persons, as occurs in this case with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, are perfectly authorized to do business and maintain other types of jobs at the margin of their Ministerial obligations."

  Teodorin's "marginal" business includes a $30 million mansion in Malibu, a jet and recording studio, among other things. Previously he and his president for life father Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo moved their money, like Pinochet, into the U.S. through Riggs Bank.

  Inner City Press and its Fair Finance Watch dug into these connections, including to Spain's Santander Bank and HSBC, when the Obiang disgraced Riggs was being sold to PNC Bank. Click here for coverage in Le Monde, in French.

  The U.S. Federal Reserve did little at that time. With the major banks it regulates now implicated again in corrupt money laundering, what will the supposedly chastened Federal Reserve do?

President for life Obiang, speaking at the UN, Citi and BofA not shown

  The "Equatoguinean" response complains at the Senate report deals only with African corruption -- Angola with HSBC, Gabon's Omar Bongo with Citigroup, Nigeria's Abubakar with Suntrust and the ubiquitous Citibank -- and not any other continent. In this, it echoes the defenders of Sudan's Omar al Bashir, that the International Criminal Court and its prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo have so far indicted only African defendants.

But Equatorial Guinea goes further. Its cover email to Inner City Press argues that "it can be considered as an authentic insult to Africa, and more so after the people of the United States have voted in the majority for a President of African origin."

Then, in capital letters, Equatorial Guinea screams that

"In Africa and in Equatorial Guinea we are tired of BEING TREATED FOR CENTURIES LIKE INHUMAN BEASTS, ON WHICH ALL THE BRUTAL AND EVIL BEHAVIOURS POSSIBLE ARE BLAMED. This is again so verifiable in this case that even different media of the United States have written these days, in regards to this case, THAT THE FAMILY OBIANG PRACTICES CANNIBALISM."

  Another of the ICC's and Ocampo's indictees, Jean Pierre Bemba the previous Vice President of the Congo, argued during his campaign against Joseph Kabila that, "I am not a cannibal!"

  The Equatoguinean defense that's closest to the mark is that

"We also wish to put on the record that the United States is the country from which comes the highest foreign investment in Equatorial Guinea, which exceeds 12 billion USA dollars, and that no American corporation has complained of fraudulent behaviour of the Government. We also expect the Senate Subcommittee to be consistent with the criteria of the North American companies."

  Or should it be the other way around? Major U.S. investors with the Obiangs include ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, Hess Corporation, and Noble Energy. We will have more on all this.

* * *

IMF's Strauss-Kahn Coy on Opposing Sarkozy and Intervening in Greece, IMF and Greek Denials, Yemen Deferrals

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 4, updated -- The managing director of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn bragged Thursday to radio station RTL in his native France that he might leave the IMF early -- and perhaps challenge Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency -- and that if asked by Greece, the IMF could "intervene" in the country.

  Questions about both comments were dodged later on Thursday by the spokesperson for Strauss-Kahn and the IMF, Caroline Atkinson. Strauss-Kahn is quoted that "As it stands... I am planning to see out my mandate. But if you ask me whether in certain circumstances I could reconsider this question, the answer is yes, I could reconsider this question."

  This is consciously leaving open the door to reconsider and leave. But Ms. Aktinson emphasized only his "planning to see out my mandate" and called everything else "hypothetical."

  On Greece, Strauss-Kahn said regally, "I have a mission on the ground to provide technical advice requested by the Greek government. And if we're asked to intervene, we will." He added, "I understand that the Europeans don't want this for the moment."

Inner City Press on Thursday morning asked Dimitris Droutsas, Alternate Foreign Minister of Greece, to describe his government's thinking about IMF help. Mr. Droutsas responded on the record, "Categorically may I state, any idea of the IMF... there is no idea about that."

Still, at Thursday's IMF biweekly briefing, Ms. Aktinson emphasized the "the IMF" -- not just Strauss-Kahn -- "had a technical team in Athens because the Greeks are very interested in getting any help from us on the technical implementation of the plan."

  Later on February 4 Droutsas told Inner City Press, on camera, that he was unaware of any IMF team having been in Athens. Video here, last question. One wag wondered, has the IMF become like the CIA, or Xe / Blackwater, whose presence is alleged and denied?

   But the IMF under Strauss-Kahn brags about being present. As with the wider UN, the rush to be relevant.

Strauss-Kahn, ready to "intervene" in Greece, could leave IMF - "hypothetically"

   It was surprising, then, that when Inner City Press asked Ms. Aktinson about Yemen -- using as the lead in a quote by UK Foreign Secretary (Ivan Lewis) that "we address the economic problems that face Yemen, especially through the IMF program" -- Ms. Atkinson said she didn't have information about Yemen and would have to respond later to Inner City Press. But as February 4 hit midnight, no information was provided. Yemen is in the news, and one would expect the omnipresent Strauss-Kahn to be all over it. We'll see.

Ms. Atkinson gave a pro-IMF spin in responding to Inner City Press' question about the IMF's new loan to Haiti, but we'll be writing about that later, along with the IMF's Yemen response. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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