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UN Continues With Contractor FBI Links to Genovese Crime Family, UN TV Loophole

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 13 -- The UN's continuing lack of standards in contracting, and the seedy roots of some of its procurement, are brought into the spotlight by its defense and use of Petrocelli Electric. The firm's founder Santo Petrocelli was indicted for bribery on April 3. He is also reputed by law enforcement sources to have been involved with the Genovese crime family since 1988. Yet when Inner City Press a week ago asked about the matter, UN spokesperson Michele Montas claimed that at the time the contract was entered into, Petrocelli had not been under suspicion:

Inner City Press: I have a procurement question. It’s become clear that, number one, the electrical contractor for the UN, Petrocelli Electric, the founder has been indicted in the Southern District of New York for bribery. At the same time, the operator of UN Television, National Mobile Television Venue Services Group, is basically going bankrupt. Everything is being sold and they’re trying to move their people into the basement area as a final refuge. How can it be that these contracts were entered into with companies in one case being indicted, and in the other case going bankrupt?

Spokesperson Montas: Well, in specific cases, when the contracts were entered, of course, there was no indictment and there were no suspicion that there were any wrongdoings. In terms of the second contract, of course, we can look into this. There are several companies going under and we cannot predict in advance which company will go under. I can try to get more information for you from the Procurement Office, but, at this point, as I said, we cannot predict what will happen when we sign contracts.

   Moments later, Ms. Montas was handed a more extensive statement to read

Spokesperson: Matthew, I just got your answer. It was just brought to me. The contract with the Petrocelli Electric Company covers overall electrical installations, operations, maintenance, alterations and major projects, and remains in place even though the UN has suspended the vendor from participating in any further procurement activity. That’s what I have for you. And we’re also aware of the financial difficulties faced by VSG’s parent company, NMT. The Organization is dealing with the situation in consultation with the VSG management. So I got your answer pretty fast for you.

   The speed, while appreciated, appeared to reflect that officials in the UN Procurement Division or the Department of Management which is supposed to oversee it had read Inner City Press' earlier story and prepared a response, only to be given to Ms. Montas if the question arose. It was a super-stealth "if asked" that the Petrocelli contract “remains in place.” Days later, the New York Times reported that New York City has long advised all of its agencies to avoid contracting with Petrocelli. So why and how did the UN enter into this contract which, unlike what is has said of the so-called Indian Enron Satyam, it says it cannot or will not get out of?

Wiring at the UN, Genovese crime family not shown

   Sources tell Inner City Press that the Petrocelli contract was shepherded through by since disgraced procurement official Walter Cabrera. Procurement is the appropriate word, as Cabrera was found based on the testimony in federal court of Nishan Kohli to have accepted the services of prostitutes in order to facilitate contracts with now-jailed telecommunications entrepreneur Sanjaya Bahel and his TCIL. What type of an offer did Petrocelli make?

  Petrocelli has received other preferential treatment in the UN, even compared to other contractors. As Inner City Press reported in 2007, while UN TV staffers are required to pass through the tourist lines and metal detectors at the 46th Street entrance, fellow outside contractor Petrocelli has been given the right to enter without checking through the staff's 42nd Street entrance.  

  On the UN and Satyam, expect more news and soon. On the UN's television contract with Venue Services Group of National Mobile Television, which is being sold off in bankruptcy, VSG is barely hanging in, and is said to be desperately looking for a partner and capital infusion. One would expect the UN to scrutinize any party which buys a part of VSG and thus buys its way into the UN. But it is unclear if any procedures for such review are in place. There is talk of a “bridge contract,” which may be awarded to none other than Capital Master Plan controller Skanska. So UN Television would be operated by a construction company? Only at the UN...

  Click here for a new YouTube 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.

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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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