December 15, 2004
by Claudia Rosett
The next chapter of the Kofi Annan saga will focus on whether there was any real substance to the job for which the secretary-general's son, Kojo Annan, received lucrative payments during a period of years in which he was ostensibly working in West Africa.
The matter is surfacing in new documents coming to light as investigators scramble to find out why the young son of the secretary-general was put on the payroll by a Swiss-based company, Cotecna Inspection Services SA, that ended up doing some of the most sensitive work in the U.N. oil-for-food program.
The documents show that far from being a provincial Peace Corps type working in Africa, as the secretary-general's office has implied, the younger Annan led a highly cosmopolitan life, dividing his time between Lagos, London, Geneva, and New York - where he listed his father's address, one month before Kofi Annan took the post of secretary-general, as one of the places where he could be reached over the winter 1996 holidays.
The importance of all this is that the deeper investigators go, the more curious the Kojo Annan story looks. At this stage a number of congressmen have already called for the secretary-general's resignation, a former Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volcker, is heading an investigation into potential graft and maladministration in the U.N. oil-for-food program, and American authorities have opened their own investigations into Kojo Annan's doings. Both Cotecna and Kojo Annan, through his lawyers, have denied any wrong-doing, and both have issued statements that they are cooperating fully with investigators.
Kojo Annan's lawyers said: "Mr. Annan maintains that all of the reported payments to him from Cotecna were entirely proper and in accordance with valid legal agreements between Cotecna and him."
Cotecna, in a statement, said: "Cotecna intends to clarify any questions remaining about the professional mission accomplished through its limited, technical role in the oil-for-food program and to respond to misinformation that unfairly distorts its record of professionalism and ethical business practices."
The newly surfaced documents indicate that Kojo Annan appears not to have been spending his time solely in Africa during the immediate run-up to bidding on the U.N. contract. On October 8, 1998, the day before the U.N. Secretariat issued its request for bids on the Iraq inspections contract that was awarded 12 weeks later to Cotecna, Kojo Annan, then working as a consultant for Cotecna, used a Cotecna American Express card to charge a bill for $1,744.32 at a hotel in Washington. D.C., where the International Monetary Fund and World Bank had just held their annual meetings.
Nor did Kojo Annan's office location in Lagos, Nigeria mean he was segregated from Cotecna staff dealing with Iraq.
His chief contact at Cotecna's head office in Geneva, Switzerland, appears to have been the company's Senior Vice President, Andre Pruniaux, who became chief of Cotecna's U.N. oil-for-food contract. The younger Annan and Mr. Pruniaux had extensive correspondence by fax, and were also in touch by phone, for the duration of Kojo's full-time employment with Cotecna from 1995-1997, as well as during Kojo's 10-month consultancy with Cotecna, which ended on December 31, 1998 - the day Cotecna signed the U.N. contract with Iraq.
For more than five years after that, continuing until February 26 of this year, Cotecna paid Kojo Annan $2,500 per month, from which health coverage fees were deducted, under a deal in which he agreed not to compete with their operations in Africa. These payments ended just three months after the U.N. closed out its role in oil-for-food and assigned the Cotecna contract to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.
At least part of the emerging picture is that Kojo Annan, now 31 years old and hired by Cotecna in December 1995, at the age of 22 before being sent the following month to Lagos as a junior liaison officer, was at times something of a handful for the company's managers. His resume, giving his full name, Kojo Adeyemo Annan, lists his prior work experience as his having assisted from 1992-1993 with two projects at the U.N. in Geneva, followed by a brief stint as "client negotiator" for an international publishing house.
As a Cotecna employee, provided with housing, a company car, and travel expenses, as well as salary of a few thousand dollars a month, he appears to have had habits at times less organized than company procedure required.
Mr. Pruniaux on a number of occasions wrote to query his expenses. At one point Mr. Pruniaux complained in a memo to Cotecna's chief executive officer, Robert Massey, about Kojo taking unauthorized vacation and billing Cotecna for a personal trip to New York: "I cannot endorse this invoice."
One lively exchange chronicles an episode in March 1997 in which Kojo Annan seems to have disappeared unexpectedly for more than a week, drawing a wry rebuke by fax from Mr. Pruniaux: "Although I understand that emergency reasons could require your urgent traveling, I am kindly asking you to warn both the Chief Liaison Office and myself in writing of your moves. This is for management reasons and also to find out if you have been kidnapped."
Kojo replied, in a fax dated March 19, 1997: "I had to urgently meet my father and I left Lagos on a Sunday, 9th March. As it was a weekend, I was unable to contact the office...I apologise for any concern caused and assure you that I was not kidnapped."
In mid-1997, Kojo Annan proposed that Cotecna create a post of regional marketing director in West Africa and appoint him to the job.
In an inter-office memo, in French, Mr. Pruniaux wrote to a colleague in Geneva, "I am not at all in favor of the creation of a post of 'marketing regional' in Lagos."
There are various signs that the Cotecna staff generally were well aware of Kojo Annan's paternal connection to the U.N. On November 17, 1997, one Cotecna official based in Niger, where Kojo Annan was staying at a company guest house, sent an email in French to Mr. Pruniaux in Geneva, noting, "It's important that KA respect the hours and rules of the liaison office" because "laxity on his/our part" would lead the local staff, given his background, to ask, "Why him and not us?"
While negotiating the contract with the U.N., in late 1998, senior Cotecna officials were in contact by fax and phone with Kojo, although Iraq is not mentioned in any of the documents seen so far. On November 24, 1998, for example, Kojo Annan faxed Cotecna's Geneva office a request for reimbursement of $4,000 in expenses for "business development trips to Abuja."
That same day, in a confidential fax, the Cotecna official replied: "On the phone when we spoke on the 26th October we agreed to limit your consultancy fee to $5,000 per month as from the 1st November 1998."
Documents also show that on at least several occasions during the non-compete period, while Cotecna was working for the U.N., Kojo Annan under the letterhead of his Lagos-based firm, Sutton Investments Limited, billed Cotecna for additional costs.
These included invoices totaling $1,500 for telephone expenses in October and November 1999 and March, 2000.The younger Annan on February 18, 2000 also requested expense reimbursements, "as discussed," into a Swiss account in the name of Sutton Sports Marketing, adding, "Kindly be advised that the above reference must be used for all future payments."
What appears missing from documents seen so far is any indication of what Kojo Annan's employment either on staff, or as a consultant, actually delivered in the way of results for Cotecna; or what services he was providing for which he submitted expenses during the noncompete period following his employment.
These are some of the questions to which it must be hoped that both Congress and Mr. Volcker will provide clear answers.
This article appeared in The New York Sun on December 10, 2004.
Claudia Rosett was formerly an adjunct fellow with the Hudson Institute.
Click here to view the full list of Op-Eds & Blogs.
Home | Learn About Hudson | Hudson Scholars | Find an Expert | Support Hudson | Contact Information | Site Map
Policy Centers | Research Areas | Publications & Op-Eds | Hudson Bookstore
Hudson Institute, Inc. 1015 15th Street, N.W. 6th Floor Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202.974.2400 Fax: 202.974.2410 Email the Webmaster
© Copyright 2013 Hudson Institute, Inc.