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Annan's Syria Technical Team Led By Executive Who Quit Group CHD Amid Embezzlement Scandal

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, March 28 -- The technical team sent to Syria by Kofi Annan was led by a former UN official who was forced to resign from a Geneva-based non-governmental organization amid an embezzlement scandal, Inner City Press has learned and confirmed.

  For two weeks at the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesmen refused to answer Press questions about who was on the team of Annan, Ban's predecessor as Secretary General whom Ban had name as his and the Arab League's Joint Special Envoy to Syria.

   Several Annan team members visible in television footage from Cairo and Damascus were former UN officials who left the UN under a cloud of scandal. There was Alan Doss, who while the UN's top envoy to the Congo was found to have urged UNDP to break its rules and give his daughter a job.

   There was Nicolas Michel, who left as the UN's top legal officer after admitting taking $12,000 a month from the Swiss government to pay for a Park Avenue apartment while employed by the UN.

   After the two weeks the UN in New York announced that Alan Doss was no longer on Annan's Syria team, and Annan's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi, himself another former UN communications official, told Inner City Press that Nicolas Michel was just a consultant, paid only when used.

   But despite Annan's spokesman Fawzi being less opaque than Ban's, Inner City Press continues to receive complaints about members of Annan's team, for example Martin Griffiths who's described as in charge of the "technical team" Annan sent to Damascus.

   Griffith worked for the UN then as the executive director of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD) based in Geneva, as is the Kofi Annan Foundation. Griffith was forced to resign from CHD after a CHF 3.8 million fraud was exposed in June 2010, and confirmed by KPMG.

Based on this, a well placed diplomat told Inner City Press on Wednesday, "Griffiths could never have been hired for this by the UN. But Kofi has forced him onto the team, and like the rest of them he's been given a UN contract and pay for at least six months, no matter what happens with the Syria work."

Before publication, Inner City Press sought comment from Annan's spokesman Fawzi, who to his credit responded with a not only a no-comment but also a confirmation, which still stops short of disclosing who else is on the team.

Inner City Press asked:

I am told that on the JSE team (but not known to me until today) is Martin Griffiths. I note that he resigned as executive director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue amid and in connection with an embezzlement scandal. I would like your comment on this, on deadline, including but not limited to if a reference was provided from this previous employer, and what it said.

I would also like the name of the team, certainly all those being paid with UN money, and confirmation that they are receiving six month contracts and that Mr. Guehenno is now an Assistant Secretary General, for six months. Would this remain the term whatever the outcome or duration of the Syria work?

Annan's spokesman Fawzi replied on these:

"Mr Griffiths is a highly qualified member of the JSE's team on a UN contract. I am not going to comment on his previous employer. Mr Guehenno is at the ASG level and most of us have 6-month contracts. That's it for now."

Does this last mean that the full team, at least those being paid with UN money, will soon be disclosed? We will have more on the team, and its relation to the UN. Watch this site.

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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