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Amid Scandal, Lykketoft Has Yet to Say Which Businesses He'll Meet

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 26 -- As the scandal of former UN President of the General Assembly John Ashe and his charging money for trips to Macau continues to unfold, new PGA Mogens Lykketoft of October 23 announced he is traveling to China October 27-28.

  In a hat-tip to the scandal, Lykketoft's press release contained this partial disclosure: “The Chinese Government is financing the travel and accommodation of the delegation.”

   But Lykketoft's press release also said, without further detail, that he will “meet with financial institutions and business leaders to discuss investments and partnerships in relation to the implementation of the SDGs.”

   Inner City Press immediately on October 23 wrote to Lykketoft's two spokespeople with these three questions:

“Can you provide the names and details of the business leaders and interests PGA Lykketoft will be meeting with? Separately, in light of the detailed information in the charge sheet against former PGA John Ashe, including mentions of his chief of staff, has your Office asked Paulette A. Bethel what she knew / knows about Mr. Ashe's activities? Finally, for now, does the PGA's Office have any involvement in or interaction with the task force mentioned today in the Secretary General's stakeout answer about the John Ashe case(s)?”

  Twenty four hours later, no substantive written response to these questions submitted in writing has been received. Now from the Spokesperson for the PGA these three response, annotated in italics:

1. As of Friday afternoon, when we issued our press release, some of the President's meetings in Beijing had still not been finalised. The President arrived in Beijing this morning (Monday EST) and we will have more details on his meeting schedule very soon. We will publish (on our website) the names of the officials and business leaders he meets on his trip.

  Note: it would seem that at least some of the business interests Lykketoft will meet with could be named now that he has landed in the country. But we will monitor the website: watch this site.

2. Ambassador Bethel expressed shock and surprise when she learned of the allegations, as have others. Investigations and reviews are underway and the President of the General Assembly and the Office of the President of the General Assembly, including Ambassador Bethel, stand ready to engage with these processes.

  Note: The FBI charge sheets lists Ambassador Bethel on these trips with Ashe. Was it all invisible? We'll have more on this.

3. As part of our broader commitment to transparency and effective running of the Office of the President of the General Assembly, we have been working closely with the Secretary-General and others on this matter. This includes engagement with the SG's task force.

Note: while awaiting the responses to its October 23 questions, Inner City Press at the October 26 UN noon briefing asked, "Is PGA Lykketoft's office involved in the task force?" Ban's spokesman replied, "Mr. Lykketoft's office will be kept on top of what is recommended.  But, ultimately, these will be recommendations that the Member States will have to take, in terms of allocating budgets or in terms of different oversight.  What we're looking at is to make recommendations to the Member States in that regard."

There was a late-arriving voice-mail and and email that “I left a message. Since you haven't called me back I suppose your questions are not urgent and nothing you are going to write about this weekend. You are welcome to try again.”

  Inner City Press immediately replied, “Hi - I'm working on a story right now; expected a written response to written questions. Also, my phone doesn't show any message or missed message. But I will call you now.” These was no answer to that, or since. They were and are simple questions: what businesses is Lykketoft meeting with, and for what purpose? Speaking with Ashe's chief of staff who now works for Lykketoft is a yes or no question, as is Lykketoft's office participation in the task force that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon mentioned in his answer to Inner City Press' question earlier on October 23.

  Similarly, written questions submitted to the UN's South South office at UNDP were never answered; instead a five minute phone interview was offered. This is the UN way, apparently: no financial answers, just an offer to schmooze.

 As to Lykketoft's PGA website, Inner City Press written questions about the sudden mis-direction of links to predecessor Sam Kutesa's team were only belatedly responded to orally, not in writing. This is not a way to turn a new page at the UN, or even just the PGA's Office. We will have more on this.

  For now we note, as to Lykketoft, that after answering Inner City Press that yes, a room in his “suite of offices” was used by fellow Dane Helle Thorning-Schmidt to campaign to take over UNHCR from Antonio Guterres, Lykketoft used his answer to another correspondent to say that Inner City Press' had been an unfair question or unfounded allegation. But it was true, and remains inappropriate / UNexplained.

  The David Ng-funded South South conference in Macau in August 2015, we can now report, featured more UN Correspondents Association involvement than the mere presence of UNCA's first vice president. His role was more than presence, and there were other UNCA-ites there.

 This comes after UNCA took funds from Ng's South South News, gave it an award and a photo op with Ban Ki-moon. These are so far Lykketoft's partners, to whom he complaints about unfair (or real) questions. We'll have more on this as well.


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