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U.N. corruption probe indicts second Russian diplomat

Federal authorities arrested a Russian diplomat and indicted him on charges that he conspired with a U.N. procurement officer to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, U.S. officials said Friday.

Vladimir Kuznetsov, a Russian Foreign Ministry official who served as chairman of an influential General Assembly budget committee, is the second Russian national employed at the United Nations to be charged with corruption in less than a month.

He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in Manhattan federal court Friday afternoon and was released on a US$1.5 million bond and agreement to surrender his travel documents, according to Reuters.

A Russian procurement officer, Alexander Yakovlev, pleaded guilty early last month to three counts of wire fraud and money laundering. Friday’s indictment, which was issued by David Kelley, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Kuznetsov worked with a co-conspirator, who was not identified but was referred to as “CC-1.” The indictment, however, said CC-1 had established a company called Moxyco Ltd., and in previous court filings that person has been identified as Yakovlev.

Efforts to reach Kuznetsov or his attorney were unsuccessful. Yakovlev’s attorney, Arkady Bukh, said he was unaware of the latest charges and could not comment.

The charges have grown out of Kelley’s ongoing criminal probe into corruption in the US$64 billion U.N. oil-for-food program for Iraq. A separate U.N. inquiry into corruption is expected to release a report Wednesday that will sharply criticize Secretary General Kofi Annan’s administration of the largest U.N. humanitarian program as lax; an Annan adviser said the report will not conclude that Annan engaged in misconduct.