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Oil-for-food programme former chief indicted

Sevan allegedly took more than $100,000 in kickbacks from the Iraqi government from 1996 to 2003.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2007 00:46 IST
New York

Benon Sevan, former head of UN humanitarian assistance in Iraq, was indicted on Tuesday by a US federal court in New York for allegedly taking bribes from the Saddam Hussein regime.

Sevan, who headed the so-called oil-for-food programme from 1996 to 2003, allegedly took more than $100,000 in kickbacks from the Iraqi government. He has denied the charges.

He allegedly received oil vouchers from the former Baghdad government under Saddam Hussein and sold them for a profit.

The charges against Sevan, a national of Cyprus, came out of a massive investigation completed in mid-2006 by former US Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker.

Under the oil-for-food programme more than $100 billion in Iraqi oil revenues were used to purchase humanitarian goods for the Iraqi population under strict UN economic sanctions. The programme was terminated after the US military invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The investigation of corruption into the implementation of the oil-for-food scheme shook the world organisation and former secretary general Kofi Annan's career, exposing weaknesses in the management of the massive relief programme.

Sevan's whereabouts were not known. He was believed to have been living in Cyprus since the scandal broke.

A Russian national involved in UN procurement services related to the oil-for-food programme has also been indicted for taking $1.3 million from contractors. A handful of UN employees were reprimanded for violating procurement regulations in the oil-for-food programme.