The former head of the United Nation’s oil-for-food program, Benon Sevan, was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York today for allegedly taking $160,000 in bribes. Sevan, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing to ABC News, was accused in the indictment of taking the secret payments from an American businessman, Fred Nadler of New York, who was also indicted. Nadler is the brother-in-law of a former U.N. Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, according to federal officials.
The oil-for-food program, set up by the United Nations to provide humanitarian aid to Iraq during the international embargo, was found by U.N. investigators to be rife with corruption. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Video U.N. Finds Its Own Official Corrupt in Oil-for-Food Program Video Iraq Docs Link Sevan to Payoff Scheme Video Oil-for-Food Program: Billions in Bribes Click Here to Check Out the Latest Brian Ross Webcast The allegation against the program’s top official, Sevan, "demonstrates how pervasive the corruption was, and how that corruption undermined the operation of the program," said Michael J. Garcia, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Sevan’s attorney said today that the United States has made a "scapegoat" of his client and used his indictment to deflect attention from the United States’ "own massive failures and mismanagement in Iraq." Attorney Eric Lewis said in a statement that the charges were "trivial" and "without basis."
Sevan left New York as the criminal investigation began to focus on him and is now believed to be living in Cyprus. As a Cypriot national, he cannot be brought back to the U.S. and will most likely not face trial. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. But officials said the United States has lodged warrants with Interpol for the arrests of Sevan and Nadler and will seek their extradition. Read Sevan and Nadler’s Indictment. Read the Statement released by Sevan’s lawyer, Eric L. Lewis.