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Son scandal returns to haunt Annan

Washington, Dec. 5: The son of Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, lobbied for business contacts at gatherings of UN officials on behalf of a company in the same year as it won an oil-for-food programme deal, it has emerged.

The second disclosure in a week about Kojo Annan's role with the Swiss company Cotecna Inspection Services, which secured the $4.8-million UN contract to monitor goods entering and leaving Iraq in 1998, has raised embarrassing questions for his father.

The details were revealed in Cotecna company documents handed over under subpoena to US congressional scrutineers who are investigating the oil-for-food scandal in which Saddam Hussein is thought to have creamed off more than $20 billion.

In one billing memo, a US investigator told The Daily Telegraph that Kojo Annan, 29, claimed fees and expenses for eight days' work in July 1998, including six days in Abuja 'during my father's visit to Nigeria'. On another, he claimed expenses and $500 a day for a 15-day trip to New York and the UN General Assembly in September 1998 for meetings on 'special projects'.

Kojo was working as a consultant on African business deals for Cotecna at the time.

The company, the UN and Kojo have repeatedly stressed that he had no involvement in securing the oil-for-food contract that was awarded in December 1998.

However, the revelations were awkward for his father, who only two days earlier said: 'He is an independent businessman. He is a grown man and I don't get involved with his activities ' and he doesn't get involved in mine.'

The secretary-general made those comments in response to news a week ago that his son had received payments from Cotecna until February..

Annan's office previously said that his son had cut his ties to Cotecna in 1998, but confirmed last week that he had received 'non-compete fees' of about $2,300 a month for more than four years afterwards.

Cotecna said the monies were paid to the younger Annan as part of a deal stipulating that he would not take his expertise in African business to a rival outfit.

Asked about these payments, Annan senior said: 'Naturally, I was very disappointed and surprised.'

He added that he had not known the payments had continued for so long.

Kojo Annan lives in Lagos, Nigeria, but friends there said last week that he was not at home.

Simon Smith, his British lawyer, insisted that all payments his client received from Cotecna were 'entirely proper' and 'none of them have anything whatsoever to do with the UN oil-for-food programme'.

Cotecna has confirmed that Kojo attended the meetings detailed in the memos but said that these were 'for purposes of Cotecna business marketing in Africa'.

The company expressed confidence that the investigations will find its actions 'were ethical, lawful and professional'.

There is growing pressure from Republicans in Washington for a change of leadership at the UN, with one leading senator who is investigating the oil-for-food calling for Kofi Annan to resign.

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