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While UN Discloses Deputy's Tobacco Rents, Other Officials Thumb Noses or Remain Vague on Assets

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, January 28 -- The Deputy Secretary General of the UN rents property to the Tanzania Cigarette Company, according to new financial disclosure forms, partially made public at the request of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Click here for DSG Asha Rose Migiro's form. While Ban asked all of the UN's top executives to list, without dollar values, their assets over $10,000, several executives have declined. The executive director of the UN Office of Project Services, Jan Mattson, checked his form "I have chosen to maintain... confidentiality." Iqbal Riza, previously Kofi Annan's chief of staff and still a "Special Advisor" to Ban, at the Under Secretary General (USG) level, also chose to maintain confidentiality.

  On January 24, Ban's deputy spokesperson Marie Okabe announced that Ban "encouraged his senior officials -- at the grade of Under-Secretary-General [USG] and Assistant Secretary-General [ASG] -- to follow his lead and make public, on a voluntary basis, their confidential financial disclosure or declaration of interest statement."  Apparently, Messrs. Riza and Mattson do not agree. The high officials of Mr. Mattson's previous employer, the UN Development Program, have their names listed -- Dervis, Merkert, Yuge, Jenks et al. -- but no live links to any disclosures, despite requests by Inner City Press and other for such information dating to May 2007. While the same is true for the head of UN peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno, whose deputy Edmond Mulet is not even listed, the UN's force commanders of peacekeeping missions in Liberia, Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, did provide links to forms -- but all of them chose not to disclose.

            One wonders why not, given how vague many of the disclosures made actually are. Some officials, while stating that they were disclosing, chose not to include the asset section, including the envoy for Western Sahara Peter van Walsum (who also wrote, "no outside activities," which seems strange) and Ban's climate change envoy, and now South Korean prime minister-designate, Han Seung-soo. The head of the UN's office in Geneva, Sergei Ordzhonikidze, wrote under Assets only the words, "Bank Savings Accounts," and not even the name of the institution holding the funds. This purported disclosure seem inconsistent with Ms. Okabe's explanation of Ban's request for disclosure, as demonstrating to" both the general public and the Member States" that "UN staff members will not be influenced by any consideration associated with his/her private interests." How can the public be assured if so little is disclosed in most cases about the specifics of these private interests?  A decision was made not to disclose anything about spousal assets, even if that is a way the UN official receives benefits. We will have more on this, and on officials who are not yet even listed, such as Joseph Verner Reed, Terje Roed-Larsen and the aforementioned deputy of peacekeeping, just as three examples.

Ms. Migiro, Mr. Ban with GA president Kerim and President Bush: disclosure?

            For now, given the lack of specificity about UN officials financial assets and connections, most of what can be gleaned from reviewing those disclosures made available involves real estate. Ban Ki-moon owns an apartment and residential lot in Seoul, and non-residential property in Kyonggi Province, South Korea. His chief of staff Vijay Nambiar owns an apartment in Delhi, and lists two outside affiliations, as an honorary member and honorary fellow. Deputy chief of staff Kim Won-soo owns a house and land in Korea, and lists with welcome additional specificity mutual fund holdings in Chase, Wells Fargo and Kookmin banks, and loans with Shihan Bank and KEB, which HSBC is trying to buy from the U.S. hedge fund Lone Star. Acting chief of the Department of Field Support Jane Holl Lute lists mutual funds with Fidelity and two houses somewhere in the USA with her spouse, the Bush administrations war czar for Iraq and Afghanistan, General Richard Lute, with whom she also hold three loans from JP Morgan Chase.

            Capital Master Plan chief Michael Adlerstein sold a house in "Chatham USA," but still owns land there. Two USG's own between them eight residences. Investigator Inga-Britt Ahlenius lists three houses in Sweden. Department of Management chief Alicia Barcena, who has repeatedly to Inner City Press spoken about the UN's yet-to-be-born freedom of information act, lists an apartment and house in Chile, and two apartments and a house in Mexico, as well as a mortgage with Banco de Chile. ASG Robert Orr has his mortgage with Citigroup, and mutual funds with Vanguard. World Food Program chief Josette Sheeran Shiner has her mutual funds with Wachovia. UN Pension Fund director Bernard Cocheme has an apartment in Paris, and wrote in by hand a savings account and even a garage. Peacebuilding's Carolyn McAskey lists a house and three acres with her partner, in Canada, a condo in New York and a mortgage from the UN Federal Credit Union.

            Regarding humanitarian USG John Holmes, even less is clear, as the link to his form does not work. The same might be said of this system, from which a number of appointees just opt out, and others delete or don't fill in the asset disclosure. Again, the spousal loophole is one that, on reflection, does or will not make sense. Watch this site.

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These reports are 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

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540