By Judi McLeod
Friday, February 2, 2007
Missing from the global radar screen but critiquing the U.S. from the comfort of Beijing ever since his links to the UN oil-for-food scandal became public knowledge, Maurice Strong will resurface Feb. 20 in Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco.
The Cleantech Forum's Gala Dinner, whose experts will discuss "the importance of cohesive public/private partnerships to address global environmental issues and challenges", boasts that its panel participants are scheduled to include Maurice Strong.
The main architect of the Kyoto Protocol, unlikely New Ager Maurice Strong is former secretary-general, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.
Amid much media fanfare in April of 2005, Strong, who was UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy in North Korea, voluntarily stepped down after being linked through South Korean lobbyist Tongsun Park to the Oil-for-Food scandal.
That was April. By November of the same year, Strong was heavily involved in a special project in his ongoing role as University of Peace Council President, studying energy alternatives for the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the hopes that a peaceful resolution could be found in the Korean Peninsula Crisis.
What an intriguing way to publicly step down from the UN system.
"Working in parallel with the Six Party Talks, Mr. Strong convened a working group on energy--chaired by UPEACE council member and former US Secretary of Energy William Martin." (UPeace Activities Calendar, Nov. 15, 2005).
In August of 2006, just four months after voluntarily leaving the UN, Strong flew 10 officials of the Kim Jong Il regime in North Korea to the University of Lund in Sweden.
..."In continued reporting on the North Korea audit controversy which led to a deferral of UNDP's North Korea program by its Executive Board last week, Inner City Press asked UNDP to describe its role in the travel of 10 North Korean officials to University of Lund six months ago. Having received no response to its written questions, on January 25 Inner City Press asked the head of UNDP's Office of Communications David Morrison the same question, after a press conference on the upcoming audit of UNDP. Mr. Morrison replied that the travel was paid by the University of Peace, "which is part of the UN system," with UNDP only arranging the travel through UNDP's Beijing office." (Inner City Press, 01/28/07). "Further inquiry reveals that while serving as both President of the University of Peace and as Kofi Annan's envoy in North Korea, Maurice Strong "convened a working group on energy" in the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea."
Guess former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, in his capacity as head honcho of the independent inquiry into the oil-for-food scandal, doesn't read UPeace media communiques.
Volcker, who Canada Free Press discovered as the subject in a number of conflict of interest scenarios, not only let UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his Mercedes-driving son Kojo off the hook during the independent enquiry, but seems to have been snookered by Strong, who was flying North Korean officials around, courtesy of UN money.
Strong, who we were officially told by the UN left the UN system, went underground at the UN's University of Peace.
Lest we forget how Strong came to leave the UN, we can review media accounts of the time.
As Agence France Press reported on July 18, 2005 "Strong had voluntarily suspended his duties as Annan's adviser on North Korea in April after questions were raised about his ties to South Korean lobbyist Park Tongsun, (sic) who is suspected of bribing UN officials with Iraqi funds, An independent inquiry led by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker has been investigating Strong's ties with Park, who was indicted earlier this year in US federal court as an unregistered Iraqi agent under president Saddam Hussein. Strong's UN contract expired last week and has not been renewed, UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Tuesday but noted that the Canadian, a longtime friend of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, had voluntarily put himself on suspension pending the outcome of the Volcker-led enquiry. `He (Strong) had also indicated earlier that he did not want to continue to work at the same operational pace,' Okabe said "the secretary general has served with distinction. He (Annan) valued his advice and expertise on Korean affairs and (said) he would see about any future and formal role for Mr. Strong following the findings of the Volcker enquiry, 'the spokeswoman added. Strong's stepdaughter also resigned from a UN job earlier this year after it was learned Strong had put her on his payroll in possible violation of UN rules... The Canadian reportedly also served on the board of a company with Annan's son Kojo, who is also being investigated in the oil-for-food enquiry. In a related development, Okabe said she was unaware of the whereabouts of Benon Sevan, who headed the former UN oil-for-food program in Iraq and is the target of a criminal probe by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. The UN spokeswoman said there was no indication that the Volcker panel had any problem with Sevan's cooperation with the investigation."
The elusive Sevan has since been indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. At last count Annan, who left the UN without John Q. Public knowing how much he took away in his golden package, was contemplating running for the presidency of his mother country.
Returning to Beijing where he continued to advise the Peoples Republic of China on environmental matters and help groom that country as the world's next emerging superpower, Strong was all the while working for the UN.
Volcker, wherever he is, should be made to take a course on the fine art of investigation before he's ever hired to lead an independent panel on scandals again.
And for hardworking US investigators who tried to curb corruption at the world's largest bureaucracy, a course on anger management might be in order.
Meanwhile, count on Maurice Strong getting a standing ovation when he comes to dinner in San Francisco on Feb. 20.