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Annan's son settles UK libel case

From CNN's Jonathan Wald

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Kojo Annan: "I am delighted that this ordeal is seemingly coming to an end."

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Kojo Annan, the son of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, has settled a libel case he brought against a British newspaper earlier this year.

Annan sued the Sunday Times for up to £250,000 ($435,000) after the newspaper published a story in January headlined "Annan's son admits oil dealings."

The article alleged Annan "told a close friend he became involved in negotiations to sell 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil to a Moroccan company in 2001."

But at London's Royal Courts of Justice on Friday, Alastair Brett, a lawyer for the Sunday Times, told a judge the newspaper now "entirely accepts that the allegation was untrue" and apologized for any "distress and embarrassment" the article caused.

Under the settlement, the Sunday Times agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to Annan and reimburse him for his legal costs.

"Today's victory is in respect of one article that appeared in the Sunday Times that I found very offensive and hurtful," Annan, 32, said in a written statement Friday. "It made a very serious accusation -- it was wrong."

"I am delighted that this ordeal is seemingly coming to an end," Annan said.

"It has been extremely stressful for my father, the rest of my family and (me) to have endured the countless unfounded statements alleging my supposed participation in the oil-for-food program -- these allegations have greatly affected me both personally and from a business perspective."

The Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC), set up by the United Nations to investigate corruption and mismanagement in the oil-for food program, scrutinized Annan's role but found no evidence he illegally sold Iraqi oil under Saddam Hussein's regime.

It did, however, criticize him for using his influence to help secure a lucrative contract for a company that employed him.

Annan attorneys: Evidence 'flimsy'

Kojo Annan was a consultant for the Swiss firm Cotecna, which won a U.N. contract to inspect goods shipped to Iraq under the program.

"Kojo Annan placed several calls to the United Nations procurement department at critical times in the bidding process during the fall of 1998," according to a report released by the IIC in September.

"It is clear that he obtained access from United Nations sources to information that he in turn passed on" to Cotecna CEO Robert Massey "for the purposes of Cotecna's positioning itself to make a contract bid," the report said.

Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve and head of the IIC, cited phone records and documents that Cotecna had previously withheld as evidence.

The records and documents included some that showed Kojo Annan had made several calls to a family friend of the Annans, Diana Mills-Aryee, whom Kojo Annan called "Aunty" and who worked in the U.N. procurement department.

After the report's release, attorneys for Kojo Annan called the evidence of his contacts with the U.N. procurement department "flimsy at best" and said it "rests largely on our client's relationship with people he has known since childhood."

Kojo Annan said in a written statement at the time, "I never attempted to influence the awarding of the contract, and the IIC's report confirms that Cotecna was awarded the contract on the basis of its submission of the lowest bid."

In its final report, issued in October, the Volcker commission said about half of the 4,500 companies in the U.N. oil-for-food program paid $1.8 billion in kickbacks and illicit surcharges to Saddam Hussein's government.

The United Nations had established the oil-for-food program to provide food and medical supplies to the Iraqi people, who were suffering from years of sanctions imposed by the Security Council in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

The program was designed to allow Iraq to sell some of its oil and use the funds to buy humanitarian supplies for its citizens.

By the time the program ended in November 2003, it had brought some $38 billion in humanitarian supplies into the country, according to U.N. figures.

Charges of misconduct first appeared in January 2004 in an Iraqi newspaper, Al Mada, which ran a list of 270 former Iraqi Cabinet members, U.N. officials, diplomats, company officials and journalists suspected of profiting from the program by making private deals with Saddam's government.

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