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The United Nations Convention Against Corruption

by Marinka Peschmann, Special to Canada Free Press

November 19, 2004

Peru's President Toledo added his signature to the “United Nations Convention Against Corruption” during a signing ceremony held on Tuesday at UN headquarters in New York City, one week after Secretary-General Kofi Annan was accused by two U.S. Senators, Republican Norm Coleman, and Democrat Carl Levin, of “affirmatively preventing” their ongoing Oil-for-Food probe from obtaining “relevant” documents.

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee revealed that during the 13 years of sanctions on Iraq the early U.S. $10-billion estimates that illegally filled Saddam Hussein’s coffers through oil smuggling, kickbacks and surcharges were low--by half, finding instead that Saddam Hussein’s regime siphoned closer to U.S. $21-billion.

Negotiations for the United Nations Convention Against Corruption began in January 2002 after the UN’s General Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee to create an “effective international legal instrument against corruption.” The Ad Hoc Committee's mission was completed on October 1, 2003, and subsequently all States have been invited to participate, seven years after the now defunct UN’s Oil-for-Food program began in 1996.

The preamble of the United Nations Convention against Corruption reads in part that the State Parties to this Convention are: “Concerned about the seriousness of problems and threats posed by corruption to the stability and security of societies, undermining the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice and jeopardizing sustainable development and rule of law,

Concerned also about the links between corruption and other forms of crime, in particular organized crime and economic crime, including money laundering;

Concerned furtherabout cases of corruption that involve vast quantities of assets, which may constitute a substantial proportion of the resources of States, and that threaten the political stability and sustainable development of those States;

Convinced that corruption is no longer a local matter, but a transnational phenomenon that affects all societies and economies, making international cooperation to prevent and control it essential;

Convinced also that a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach is required to prevent and combat corruption effectively;

Convinced that the illicit acquisition of personal wealth can be particularly damaging to democratic institutions, national economies and the rule of law, and is;

Determined to prevent, detect and deter in a more effective manner international transfers of illicitly acquired assets and to strengthen international cooperation in asset recovery.”

Currently 113 countries have joined the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Signatories include: Canada, the United States, Russia, Iran, France, Germany, China, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Netherlands.

On Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. House International Relations Committee's latest findings tracked a multimillion dollar money trail to bank accounts in Jordan used by Saddam Hussein to pay families of Palestinian suicide bombers who attacked Israelis approximately $25,000 each using money from the UN Oil-for-food program.

When the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention against Corruption on October 31, 2003, Kofi Annan issued a statement, “Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately--by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a government's ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice, and discouraging foreign investment and aid.”

Kofi Annan who is in Nairobi, Kenya could not be reached for comment. Earlier, the UN’s director of communications, Edward Mortimer, described the charges leveled against Annan by the U.S. Senators as “very awkward and troubling” and added that the UN has provided all relevant documents to Paul Volcker’s Independent Inquiry Committee for the United Nations Oil-for-Food program. Canada Free Press has obtained a letter Paul Volcker sent to Kofi Annan and Senators Coleman and Levin: ‘The policies of our Committee are designed to reconcile essential and desirable transparency and disclosures in our work with the need to conduct our investigation with the degree of confidentiality and simple fairness necessary in investigations into allegations of serious maladministration, misfeasance and personal corruption… What appears primarily at issue is the timing of such disclosures…We fully anticipate that the findings at that time [middle of next year] will be accompanied by release of substantially all documents relevant to those findings in the Committee possession.”

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption will not be ratified until early 2006. The probes into what has been described as ‘Oil-for-Fraud’ continue.

Marinka Peschmann is a freelance writer whose first book collaboration, the best-selling The Kid Stays In The Picture; was made into a documentary. She's contributed to several books and stories ranging from showbiz and celebrities to true crime and politics.