New Memo Might Implicate Annan

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan during a conference devoted to the so-called Global Compact, a voluntary charter of rules of ethics for businesses, Tuesday June 14, 2005 in Paris.
Investigators of the U.N. oil-for-food program said Tuesday they are "urgently reviewing" new information that suggests U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan may have known more than he revealed about a contract that was awarded to the company that employed his son.

The December 1998 memo from Michael Wilson, then a vice president of Cotecna Inspections S.A., mentions brief discussions with Annan "and his entourage" at a summit in Paris in 1998 about Cotecna's bid for a $10 million-a-year contract under oil-for-food.

If accurate, the memo could contradict a major finding of the Independent Inquiry Committee — that there wasn't enough evidence to show that Annan knew about efforts by Cotecna, which employed his son, Kojo, to win the contract. Cotecna learned it won the contract on Dec. 11, 1998, days after the meeting.

The statement from the Independent Inquiry Committee, led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, said it would "conduct additional investigation regarding this new information."

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said U.N. officials reviewed the final records of the Paris trip that note every meeting that took place, "and there is no metion in that trip record of any exchange with Michael Wilson."

"We spoke to the secretary-general who is in Paris today, and he has no recollection of any such exchange," Eckhard said.

In a statement released earlier Tuesday, Cotecna said it had found the memo as part of its "continued efforts to assist investigators." The Geneva-based firm again denied that it committed any wrongdoing in obtaining the contract.

The memo "may result in speculation about the procurement of its oil-for-food authentication contract," Cotecna said. "Cotecna once again confirms that it acted at all times appropriately and ethically in its bidding for, winning and performing that contract."