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Two E-Mails Contradict Annan on Oil-for-Food Wednesday, June 15, 2005 NEW YORK ? Faced with two e-mails from 1998 that raise questions about what U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) knew about a lucrative Oil-for-Food contract, investigators said they were "urgently reviewing" fresh evidence.
Cotecna Inspection S.A. (search), a Swiss firm that won the pivotal contract to inspect goods going into Iraq, has given new documents to investigators with the Independent Inquiry Committee. The U.N.-approved panel, headed by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, is charged with looking into corruption associated with the Oil-for-Food program.
The documents are e-mails from Michael Wilson, a lifelong friend of Annan's, to other executives at Cotecna describing a meeting in Paris just weeks before the Oil-for-Food contract was awarded. Wilson supervised the work of Kojo Annan (search), the secretary-general's son who worked as a consultant for Cotecna.
One e-mail refers to the U.N. program and says: "We had brief discussions with the SG [the acronym for secretary-general] and his entourage. Their collective advise [sic] was that we should respond as best as we could to the Q-and-A session of the 1-12-98 and that we could count on their support." The contents of that e-mail were first reported by The New York Times.
The numbers "1-12-98 " refer to a Dec. 1, 1998, meeting between Cotecna executives and U.N. officials in New York at which the contract was discussed.
The second e-mail from the same Cotecna executive, sent minutes after the first, discussed a meeting that took place three days earlier with U.N. procurement officials to talk about the contract bid and expressed his confidence that the company would get the bid because of "effective but quiet lobbying" in New York diplomatic circles.
The secretary-general has consistently denied discussing the Cotecna contract with any of the company's executives.
"I have no involvement with granting of contracts either on this Cotecna one or others," Kofi Annan said in November.
Asked to explain the contradiction between the e-mails and Kofi Annan's claim never to have been involved in contract discussions, a spokesman for the secretary-general said the office was looking into it.
"We are still checking our files to see if this encounter took place, so I cannot give you any explanation yet," spokesman Fred Eckhardt said.
The Volcker panel is also examining the documents.
In a statement released Tuesday, panel spokesman Michael Holtzman said investigators were "urgently reviewing" the two e-mails, which the committee received from Cotecna on Monday night.
"This information was first provided to the IIC late last evening," the statement said. "The IIC will conduct additional investigation regarding this new information."
"Does this raise a question? Sure," said Reid Morden, executive director of the probe.
The previously unknown e-mails will be a new distraction for the U.N. secretary-general, who had claimed he was exonerated by the interim report and had hoped that the committee was finished investigating his personal involvement.
Morden said investigators had planned to interview Annan soon as part of the investigation into management of Oil-for-Food. "This certainly adds another topic," he said of the Cotecna e-mails.
The first Dec. 4, 1998, e-mail from Michael Wilson, then a vice president of Cotecna and a friend of both Kofi and Kojo Annan, mentions brief discussions with the secretary-general "and his entourage" at a summit in Paris in 1998.
He wrote that Cotecna's bid was discussed and Cotecna was told it "could count on their support."
Wilson's memo also refers to a "KA" who made courtesy calls to various African leaders at the Paris summit. That would appear to be Kojo Annan, then a Cotecna consultant.
Annan spokesman Eckhard said it would be reasonable to assume that Kofi and Kojo Annan would have met in Paris if Kojo Annan were there, though he knew of no record of it.
The e-mails from Wilson add to doubts about Kofi Annan's denials of familiarity with the Cotecna contract.
In March, a report from the Volcker panel concluded there was no evidence the U.N. chief tried to influence the world body's decisions in order to benefit his son's business interests. The panel reached its conclusion despite Annan's own omissions about his contacts with Cotecna.
Annan at first did not tell investigators that he had met twice with Cotecna representatives as the Swiss company began soliciting U.N. business. One investigator for Volcker reportedly was so concerned with Annan's veracity that he sought to make note of it in the report.
But the final report toned down the language offered by Robert Parton. He and another member of the IIC quit the panel following the report's release.
Kofi Annan "had checked the records and now remembered the meeting," the final report said about one of the two meetings Annan did not initially disclose.
FOX News' Jonathan Hunt, Per Carlson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Kofi "checked the records" and then[/n] rememberd the meetings. I feel bad for the Iraqi people, first being shafted by the UN and now by us.
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