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Ng Lap Seng Money Still Held in UN System, Ban's Spox Stonewalls, Evicts Press

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 10 -- While many try to insulate today's UN from the open corruption of the recent past of President of the General Assembly John Ashe, there is continuity to this UN scandal. Some of it is through UNDP, the UN Development Program, see below.

  Inner City Press in October 2015 repeatedly raised that Ashe's chief of staff Paulette A. Bethel of the Bahamas was and is current PGA Mogens Lykketoft's “Special Adviser, Coordination and Engagement,” at the senior D2 level. The response on April 29 from the UN was... profanity. And see New York Times of May 14, here.

   As UN officials including Under Secretary General for "Communications" Cristina Gallach, whose involvement in the scandal is detailed in the UN's own Office of Internal Oversight Services audit at Paragraphs 37 to 40 and 20(b) have moved to evict Inner City Press  from the UN premises (video here) and restrict its access, Inner City Press on June 3 asked deputy spokesman Farhan Haq why UNDP's OSSC has STILL not held a press conference, UN transcript here:

On June 10, Inner City Press asked Spokesman Dujarric about this again, with new information. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: Transparency question.  One has to do with the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] Office of South-South Cooperation.  I've been told that the funds from Ng Lap Seng and his entities that they took in prior to October are still in their possession.  I wanted to know, can you explain why they're still there after eight months and why they have not done a press conference in these eight months?

Spokesman:  I can't confirm that's a fact, and I would encourage you to call them and talk to them directly.

Inner City Press:  You had said from this podium…

Spokesman:  I know what I said.

Inner City Press:  Who runs the system?  If Ban Ki-moon is transparent, can't this small office…?

Spokesman:  I will talk to them and you will talk to them and we'll see what happens.

Only at the UN can a spokesperson say "I know what I said" about a statement that has turned out to be false, and just leave it at that. Ban's UN evicts and restricts the Press that asks about this, toasts and rewards others. Reminds you of where?

 Dujarric refused to confirm it; Inner City Press on June 7 went to a rare appearance in the UN by UNOSSC's director Jorge Chediek.

   It was in windowless Conference Room A in the UN basement; a handful of speakers described projects about bicycles and match sticks, rattan and bamboo, and praised UNOSSC. Soon the moderator said, there are only 12 minutes left, I have some formulated questions. 

Inner City Press raised its hand, was called on and asked, “Since you have not held a press conference about the scandal that broke in October 2015, please at least describe which of the audits recommendations you have in fact implemented.”

   Inner City Press was told there was no time but that Mr. Chediek would speak with it afterward. In a few minutes he said that he is not ready for a press conference. The Ng Lap Seng money, it seems, is still in the UN's possession - though “frozen,” he said. Questioned by Inner City Press he said that UNOSSC has another partnership going, with the royal family of the UAE. Shades of Bernardino Leon.

   The promised press conference should be held. We'll have more on this.

From the June 3 UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I know when the UNDP audit came out, it was said from here that the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Office of South-South Cooperation would hold a press conference on it.  Then Stéphane said, ask them about it.  I'm asking you now because I see now in your office the director is going to be appearing in Conference Room A.  So there's clearly not a lack of time.  So I'm wondering, can your office please… given the interest in this corruption scandal in the UN system assert whatever power you have to say it would be a good idea?

Deputy Spokesman:  We've been in touch with them on this, and we'll continue to try and schedule that as soon as we can.

We'll see. Back on May 3 Inner City Press asked again, and spokesman Dujarric said the delayed UNDP audit was now available. While the most recent audit on UNDP's website two hours later was still about Kenya, released April 16, Inner City Press has obtained and for ease put online the UNDP audit, here.

   It says the $1.5 million given in May 2015 was mis-accounted for, seemingly intentionally so.  “The Chairman of the donor was charged by the US Federal authorities. The donor risk assessment... was ineffective.” That's an UNderstatement. But UNDP still has the money, or at least $1.1 million of it. And former UNDP-SS Director Yiping Zhou doesn't return UNDP's calls, according to the audit.

  Meanwhile UNDP's Helen Clark has taken off on a trip campaigning to replace Ban Ki-moon. Inner City Press asked Dujarric who is paying, and he said, “Ask UNDP.” Inner City Press asked for a UNDP press conference; the date is not yet clear.

  There were bogus secondments to UNOPS in order to get promotions; the audit mentions “SS-GATE” which Inner City Press has previously covered, but the audit does not name names.

   Ng Lap Seng's money was used for conferences not only in his native Macau ($225,000) but also in Dhaka ($122,000), according to the audit. The audit team's Googling found the Ng Lap Seng - Clintons connection, but the UNDP-South South office claimed it didn't find these, or any other adverse material.

  Two UNDP-SS contract holders were, in fact, working in the Office of the President of the General Assembly.

On May 4, Inner City Press asked UN (and former UNDP) spokesman Stephane Dujarric about this audit and follow-up. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you actually about the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) audit, it seems like this was completed by its own terms in November, like it was, been completed for a very long time, so what took so long to release it?  Have the recommendations, which it said it recommended as to be done in February and March, been done?  And it also mentions that the UNDP South-South office was paying, had two contractors within the Office of the President of the General Assembly, it doesn't say whether it was under John Ashe or Sam Kutesa, but what I am wondering is it doesn't say about assigning accountability.  Who in the UN system is going to find out how it was that UNDP South-South erroneously, according to the audit, was paying people in the…?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think, you know, the mechanics of the audit, that is a question for UNDP Audit Office or South-South.  It's not what I'm going to get into here.  I think the audit uncovered a lot of issues that had occurred under the previous head of the office.  And I know the current head of the office is very much focused on implementing the recommendations and most, a lot of them… some of them have already been implemented.

Inner City Press:  It says that the previous, at least it says right at the beginning of the audit the previous director, Mr. Yiping, didn't… Yiping Zhou didn't return the phone call of the auditor.  So I'm wondering in the UN system, when somebody leaves with this kind of a mess and then refuses to even respond to phone calls, is there any repercussions, or is he basically…?

Spokesman Dujarric:  I think there is a moral responsibility, but there is no other pressure points for us.


UNDP "South South" Audit, After Ng Lap Seng and John Ashe Indictments, Released May 3, 2016 by Matthew Russell Lee

 From the May 2 briefing UN transcript:

 Inner City Press: on the audit, not the UNDP one that has not been released but on the OIOS UN audit — of the seven recommendations, four of them were to have been implemented with documentation by 30 April including the assignment of responsibility for the changing of the document by the Secretariat’s DGACM (Department of General Assembly and Conference Management), the acceptance of gifts by Secretariat staff, I could go through the other two… So I'm asking you, have these been implemented and, if so, will the documentation be made public in the spirit of transparency?

Spokesman:  I have no doubt the concerned departments have been following up with OIOS.  If I have something to share, I will.

 Nothing. Inner City Press on April 29 asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman  Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: just for a simple statement… if the UN finds that a UN-paid staff member in the office of the PGA (President of the General Assembly) in fact erroneously or fraudulently had an A visa, a diplomat's visa for purposes of immunity, what does the UN do?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Matthew, I'm not going to go into hypotheticals.  We expect all UN staff members to abide by the rules, and if they don't, there are sanctions according to policy... 

Inner City Press: I end up asking you questions that you didn't ask from yesterday.  There were four or three that you said you’d get back.  This is the third.  The third has to do with is the position of the head of UNIC (United Nations Information Centre) in Brussels, a D1 or D2 position, to your knowledge?

Spokesman Dujarric:  To my knowledge, it's a D1 position.

Inner City Press:  Right.  So what would explain a person leaving a D2 position in New York for a D1 position in Brussels?

Spokesman:   Because… You know what?  I don't want to get into personal issues of people, but sometimes people make career decisions based on all sorts of different things.  I'm sure you do and I do.  Thank you.

  What the UN did not transcribe, and in fact cut from its audio, was Dujarric saying, "Matthew, that's a f*cking stupid question." But Vine here. We'll have more on this.

On April 28, Inner City Press asked Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: This is related to the John Ashe case.  When people work in the PGA's office and they work for the UN, but they work for the PGA's office, are they supposed to have a G4 visa or an “A” diplomat visa?  There's a reason I'm asking this.  Some people are seconded, and supposedly, they can have then an A visa, which gives much greater immunity.  Some people are paid by the UN, and I wanted to get an answer from you whether G4…

Spokesman Dujarric:  If they are UN staff, then I would assume they're under G4 visas…

Inner City Press:  What happens if… what if somebody is a UN staff that, for some reason, for some erroneous reason, happened to have an A visa?  Would this give them immunity?

Spokesman:  I don't know.  I don't know.

  Dujarric did not come back with an answer, but should have. Inner City Press is exclusively informed that the UN allowed “visa games” in the case of John Ashe's chief of staff Paulette Bethel, who is now in the Cabinet of current PGA Mogens Lykketoft and is being lobbied to continue, with immunity, with the *next* PGA (more on that in a separate forthcoming exclusive story).

   Bethel had been an Ambassador with an “A” diplomatic visa, full diplomatic immunity. But while working for Ashe, Ban's UN paid her. Still she arranged to have an “A” visa -- significant given the corruption in which her Office was allegedly involved in.

   Now, the sources tell Inner City Press, there is a review of how Ban Ki-moon's UN has allowed for abuse of the visa (and immunity) system. On this, too, we will have more.

Back on March 11, Inner City Press reported and asked this:

  By having her position with Lykketoft, Paulette Bethel continues to have immunity. Ban Ki-moon has not waived it, despite the portrait painted of her the John Ashe indictment. She “knows where the bodies are buried,” as the phrase has it.

  And perhaps for that reason, Inner City Press is multiply informed that Bethel is lobbying for a continued immunity job with the NEXT President of the General Assembly, whether from Cyprus or Fiji.

  In fact, Inner City Press is informed, both candidates to succeed Lykketoft as PGA, Cyprus and Fiji, was lobbied to keep Bethel on -- as a D2, with full immunity -- if they win the job, and were promised (the same) votes if they do.

Now, Inner City Press is informed of new (March 11) developments regarding Paulette Bethel's immunity status.

  For now, what does this mean? Well -- did Lykketoft make the same corrupt deal? Why WOULD Lykketoft, claiming to be so different from John Ashe, keep Ashe's chief of staff on his team? Even Banned from the UN second floor where Lykketoft's office -- used to campaign for Helle Thorning-Schmidt, as Inner City Press exclusively covered -- we'll have more on this. Here.

On March 11, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric -- who among other things has refused to answer on lending UN Press Briefing Room, in which indictee Frank Lorenzo appeared without being listed in the Media Alert -- about this.
 Video here UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I want to return to the indictment of John Ashe, I'd asked you before, but I have more to ask about it, that the previous Chief of Staff of John Ashe, Paulette Bethel, is currently the number three official in Mogens Lykketoft's office.  And as Chief of Staff, she's listed throughout the indictment and charge sheet in the John Ashe case. I've also become aware that there's requests being made to potential new PGAs (Presidents of the General Assembly), Cyprus and Fiji, to continue her in the employment as a D-2 UN official. If a person is a UN staff member but works for the PGA's office, one, what is the status of their immunity from prosecution and testifying?  And, two, who can waive that immunity?  Is it the Secretary-General, as with other UN staff, or is there some special status for a UN staff member who works for the PGA's office?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Look, speaking not in relation to the particular case that you mentioned, because her employment and the employment of anybody in the PGA's office is up to the PGA itself, the Secretary-General has the authority to lift the immunity of any UN staff member.

Inner City Press:  Does it seem strange to you that someone listed so prominently in the indictment remains on the UN payroll? Can you describe the immunity that that obtains?  If, for example, the US Attorney's Office wanted to speak to a Chief of Staff who went to Macau, who was involved in all of these actions…

Spokesman:  I'm not going to speak to… I can't speculate…

Inner City Press:  D-2, D-2 generally.

Spokesman:  I can't speculate to the case.  I don't… I'm not privy to anything that the US Attorney may or may not be doing.  What is clear is that anyone, as far as I know, under the rank of Assistant Secretary-General, which would include D-2s, such as myself, carries functional immunity.  As a matter of principle, immunity is not there to block any criminal investigation.  Maggie?

Voice of America:  Steph, anything on Mr. de Mistura's smaller conversations

Yes, smaller conversations... There is a history, here.

 After being thrown out of the UN on two hours notice by Under Secretary General for DPI Cristina Gallach on February 19, on March 10 back in on a "non resident correspondent" "Green P" pass, Inner City Press was ordered out of the UN at 8 pm, here, as it worked on this story -- here's an Inner City Press story on Bethel and Ban Ki-moon's connection to the scandal -- in the UN Lobby.

 UNder this kind of harassment, intimidation and attempted censorship, there is only one approach: publish, publish, publish. If Bethel didn't have the immunity that comes with a UN D-2 post, what might she testify to? Who could waive her immunity?

  The new Free UN Coalition for Access -- whose sign USG Cristina "The Censor" Gallach directed to be torn down after she evicted Inner City Press from its long-time office -- seeks to open the UN and these processes - watch this site.


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