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On Syria Chemicals, OPCW Visits Veolia in Texas, Fined for Violations

By Matthew Russell Lee, Investigative follow up

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- The question of why the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons chose to dispose of Syria's chemical weapons a company Veolia which does business in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, first raised by Inner City Press on February 15, was finally put to Sigrid Kaag on May 8, 2014.

  She told Inner City Press to "ask the OPCW," which ran the tender.

  Now the OPCW's report to the Security Council, to be issued as a document of the Security Council under symbol S/2014/368 (OPCW EC-M-42/DG.1) says "from 30 April to 2 May, a visit took place in the United States at the Veolia ES Technical Solutions, L.L.C., in Port Arthur, Texas, selected for the disposal of Priority 2 inorganic chemicals through the solicitation process conducted by the OPCW."

   But we now report and link to: Veolia's Port Arthur facility has been fined $13, 500 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for repeated carbon monoxide emission violations. Click here for the report, which cites other problems with equipment.

Background: In the OPCW tender, 14 companies submitted bids. On February 14 the OPCW told the press there were two winners:

Ekokem OY AB (Finland)

Veolia Environmental Services Technical Solutions, LLC (U.S.A.)

   Veolia stands accused of illegal operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, including waste disposal in the illegally occupied Jordan valley, North of the Yafit settlement; waste water treatment in the illegal Israeli settlement of Modiíin Illit; bus service to illegal settlements and Jerusalem Light Rail / tramway. h/t In April 2010 the UN Human Rights Council declared the tramway and its operations to be illegal (A/HRC/RES/13/7 of 14 April 2010).

  So how did the OPCW select Veolia? There was a one page press release sent to the media, "reported" (or merely repeated, without any of the above) by Reuters and others, not mentioning that France, where Veolia is actually headquartered at the parent level, had contributed no money at all to the OPCW or UN trust funds on destroying Syria's chemical weapons.

   On transparency back on February 6, after OPCW-UN mission chief Sigrid Kaag briefed the UN Security Council about Syria chemical weapons, Inner City Press asked her about her Mission's trust funds, as it did back on January 8.

   Inner City Press noted that the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons put online a January 24 press release about Canada donated 10 million CAD, but that it had no link to any over-all chart.

  Kaag said, "I knew you'd ask that," and said it should go online soon.  Video here and embedded below.  After 6 pm, Inner City Press ran an update with the chart, which shows for example that to the UN Trust Fund, Japan has pledged $9 million -- but has as of yet provided no money.

  In terms of cash, Kaag's native Netherlands has provided more (barely) that the United States:  $2,062,500 versus $2 million from the US.
  The OPCW Trust Fund for Syria is denominated in Euros. The European Union is the largest donor, and several EU members have also contributed in their own name - but not France.

  A separate OPCW Syria Trust Fund for the Destruction of Chemical Weapons has more in unpaid pledges then monies actually paid. Among those yet to come through are once again Japan, the aforementioned Canada, the EU, Australia, India, Italy and South Korea.

   There is the maritime component (see chart) and then this:

In addition to their contribution to the OPCW trust fund for the Destruction of Chemical Weapons, Canada contributed another CAD 5 million (almost US$ 4.7 million) for the destruction operations on board the vessel MV Cape Ray. Italy has indicated that the port of Gioia Tauro will be made available for transloading of priority chemicals from the cargo vessels onto the MV Cape Ray. Germany has indicated it will dispose of approximately 370 tons of effluent generated through the hydrolysis of the priority chemicals. The United Kingdom has indicated that it will destroy two binary chemical weapon components at a commercial facility.

    And so the only Permanent Five member of the Security Council not to contribute... is France.

  Inner City Press continues to await from the UN a response to repeated questions submitted about the Joint Mission's chief of staff Abdullah Fadil. Sources say he has asked UNTSO, where he worked before the Joint Mission, to respond in some way.

  But the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General, which has had these questions in writing since before Christmas 2013, has provided no answers at all. And there are more questions ready, particularly in light of a motion for disclosure to force the SG represented by ALS to give us access to the reports of OIOS, the Ombudsman Office and CDU that has been filed in the UN Dispute Tribunal.

For now, consider the issued raised, below and in this unresponded to follow up question:

"As a follow up to the not-answered [earlier question, see below], please confirm or deny that Michael Antoine has also transferred from UNTSO to the UN-OPCW joint mission on chemical weapons in Syria, but that he is in Cyprus; please explain his duties to jump from FS4 to FS6; please describe the Joint Mission's interview and recruitment practices."

  This question has not been answered; a question Inner City Press submitted about the tension between South Korea and Japan, including in South Sudan, caused by Japan's prime minister's visit to a shrine for the country's World War Two dead was answered in a statement apparently given to other media, on a regional or political basis, 13 hours before today's "first" Note to Correspondents. The Free UN Coalition for Access is challenging these practices.

   Previously Inner City Press had asked, without answer:

"Please confirm or deny that Abdullah Fadil is with the UN-OPCW joint mission on chemical weapons in Syria, that while at UNTSO he managed to have Ministry of Foreign Affairs cards from both Israel and Lebanon, and separately that he is under investigation by OIOS and/or other UN bodies for recruitment irregularities and SEA."

  Five days later the question has not even been acknowledged, much less answered. Questions submitted and re-submitted to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's top two spokespeople on the morning of December 21, about civilians at risk, have not been acknowledged.

  By stonewalling, and by the practices described in the below, which are evident elsewhere and to the very top of the UN system, the UN credibility is being damaged. At least questions should be answered.

  While we have more, here's from the underlying whistleblower's initial complaint giving rise to the question, about the current chief of staff of UN - OPCW mission for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in Syria:

I am an avid reader of the Inner City Press. My numerous Missions with the UN can confirm what your many articles state: rampant corruption, nepotism, and recruitment manipulation at all levels in the UN. Sadly, this conduct is only increasing. Within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) it is not "what you know" but itís "who you know." There is an absolute absence of accountability. It is often said that nobody gets fired unless you are a whistle-blower or suspected of bringing the UN into disrepute by exposing corruption; usually after becoming exasperated trying to deal with it via due process. After speaking to many staff members, I am compelled to report a matter that concerns me. The mission/UN is failing to take action and I feel that it is time that external scrutiny is required.

1. Mr. Abdullah Fadil, a Somali (now Canadian), is a member of the UNTSO Mission in Israel. He is an international staff Member at the level of Director (D1) and occupies the position of Chief Mission Support (CMS). He is the most senior civilian in the mission. As CMS he has control over all administrative functions, most notably, finance, procurement, and recruitment. He previously held similar positions in Kosovo, Khartoum and Darfur... He is well known in the DPKO system and there are numerous allegations against Mr. Fadil presently being investigated by the Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS), Ombudsman Office, and the Complaints and Discipline Unite (CDU). These allegations range from sexual harassment, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA), to manipulating recruiting to allow friends (internally) and externally to jump recruitment rosters. This includes managing recruiting panels and overseeing the selection process.

All UNTSO staff recruited in the UNTSO Mission in the three years he has been the CMS are either former girlfriends, absolute loyal friends from former missions, or family members. The method of control is to provide the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) with his handpicked short list along with a verbal directive as to whom he wished to be selected. This practice tended to exclude competent staff as he put loyalty to himself as the primary selection criteria. This allowed him to have a foundation of very loyal staff that he could rely upon. Senior managers within the mission could not recruit competent staff. Managers who voiced their concern were either moved sideways or resigned.

4. Due to these many complaints he was asked to take a temporary assignment to Syria (OPCW) to reduce the level of discontent in the mission.

5. The allegations include obstructing an investigation by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) into the fraudulent use of tax free PX fuel cards (Israel) by national staff and some international staff. His obstruction included briefing the suspect prior to being interviewed by investigators. His intent was cover up the extent of the fraud by International Staff (friends) who had aided and abetted the fraud. This allegation also included misuse of duty free products (alcohol) to pay rent in disputed territories.

6. A most egregious act that must be investigated, and which should result in his termination from the UN, is the fraudulent acquisition of a MOFA card from the government of Lebanon. The circumstances are that Mr. Fadil is located in Jerusalem and holds a valid Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) card which grants him residency in Israel. To qualify for this status, one is required to reside/hold residency in that country due to oneís UN official status. The process requires that one file a signed request to the Host Government for a MOFA card as an official of the United Nations. The signature verifies the accuracy of the document and information provided. One must include an address, UN letter of appointment, and photographs. The MOFA card grants certain privileges and benefits as a member of the UN.

In addition to the Israeli MOFA card provided to Mr. Fadil by the Israeli Government, he was recently found to have a MOFA card from the Government of Lebanon. Inquiries confirm that two years ago he fraudulently applied for MOFA status in Lebanon stating that he was a resident in Lebanon. This is not true as he and family reside in Jerusalem. He has also misrepresented himself to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Fadil has been using that same Lebanese MOFA card in Lebanon to obtain benefits. In short, he has two MOFA cards; one for Israel and one Lebanon. When this fraud becomes known to the governments of Israel and Lebanon they might apply a high level of scrutiny to new legitimate applicants. This could have a significant impact on UN staff members and UNMOs applying for MOFA cards within Lebanon and Israel. He has placed us all at disadvantage by giving both governments cause to delay and further investigate applications. He has placed the UN in a difficult position. Hence the cover up.

We will have more. There are a number of other Press questions long-pending in Ban Ki-moon's Office of the Spokesperson, never responded to, stonewalled. Watch this site.


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