| "YOU CAN STOP CORRUPTION"? -- START WITH THE
U.N. OFFICIAL CONCERNED
15 February 2008
Antonio Marie Costa has real nerve. He sits in the expensive exclusive resort of Bali admonishing countries to fight
corruption when he himself was subject to an investigation which fizzled after a deal was made at the Annan-Riza 38th
floor. At the time, the Director of the Vienna office agreed, among other things, to take a floating Pakistani woman,
a friend of Riza, in a D-2 post. Costa, who doubles as the Executive Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, had his
contract extended three years beyond the outgoing Secretary General's term -- an exceptional arrangement granted to no one
else except the Green Mercedes Man.
In Bali, Costa complained that efforts to regain stolen assets were running into resistance from "middle-level
bureaucrats with connections, knowledge and entrenched interests who have a lot to lose." How about high-level
They were gathering in Indonesia, the most famous cleptocracy where $50 billion has disappeared over the last thirty
years. According to The Financial Times reporter, none of them offered a comment "out of deference to their hosts
and respect for the ex strongman" Suharto who died and was buried in the nearby island of Java. To place the gathering
in its real perspective President Yudhoyono -- a former Interior Minister under Suhorta -- abandoned his scheduled
appearance to attend the funeral.
Some participants expressed concern that they may "lose momentum" unless a monitoring system was established soon.
Others pointed out to conflicts of interest and "revolving doors" between the private and public sectors. Many stressed
that legal obstacles should be cleared to facilitate the return of stolen assets. One of the most outspoken -- and
credible -- speakers was Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a managing director of the World Bank, once rumoured as potential U.N.
Deputy Secretary General. As former Finance Minister of Nigeria, she should know her subject. Former President
Abacha had amassed somewhere around $5 billion, from his salary as a retired army officer!
While they focus on dead horses like Ferdinand Marcos, Muboto Sese Seko or Slobodan Milosevic, they divert
attention -- intentionally or otherwise -- from where billions are being blatantly stolen without accountability. And
while pointing figures at the poor developing world, they tread softly on corruption in rich and powerful countries
including influence peddling, paid lobbying for hefty contracts and real "revolving doors."
Instead of theatrical posturing from Bali, the Director of U.N. Office on Crime and Drugs, should be doing his assigned
job on precisely Crime and Drugs. Few years ago he told us pompously that we were witnessing the beginning of the end
of the Asian Golden Triangle. Instead, it spread further. Afghanistan, which he promised three years ago will effectively
control its drug production has in fact become -- with his own admission -- the biggest producer of opium in the
world. In Vienna, the ever-traveling "Director" could not produce any single tangible accomplishment during the last six years,
except some press clippings about having to return that favoured gun to its generous manufacturer. And there is
that initial report of the investigation in New York. Unless Riza happened to shred it -- by mistake, of course.