Former U.N. procurement officer pleads guilty to taking bribes from U.N. contractors
NEW YORK – A former United Nations procurement officer pleaded guilty Monday to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from U.N. contractors, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.Alexander Yakovlev also pleaded guilty to soliciting a bribe under the U.N. oil-for-food program, making him the first U.N. official to face criminal charges in connection with the scandal-tainted program.He also put forth a guilty plea to charges of wire fraud and money laundering and could face up to 20 years in prison for each charge, the office said in a statement.Just hours earlier, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had waived Yakovlev’s immunity upon request from David Kelley, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York.Earlier Monday, a U.N.-backed probe investigating allegations of wrongdoing in the Iraq oil-for-food program accused Yakovlev of collecting nearly $1 million in kickbacks outside the program. It said he also sought a bribe as part of his work for it.The Independent Inquiry Committee, led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, had recommended Annan lift Yakovlev’s immunity if the request came.Heather Tasker, a spokeswoman for Kelley, declined to comment on whether the timing of the guilty plea was connected to the release of the Volcker report. Kelley’s statement thanked the internal U.N. watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, but not Volcker’s team.Volcker had singled out the U.S. Attorney’s Office for failing to cooperate with his own probe into the $64 billion oil-for-food program.Yakovlev, who is Russian, resigned in June after separate allegations came to light suggesting that he helped his son get a job with a company that did business with the United Nations.There was no immediate word on Yakovlev’s sentencing or next court date. He was taken into custody earlier Monday.Vail – Colorado
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