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Annan's son to repay duty on Mercedes

U.N. chief's son admits using his father's name to skirt import fees

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Kojo Annan says he will repay duties he dodged by saying a Mercedes SUV he imported was for his father.

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Kofi Annan
United Nations

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The son of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is sorry he misused his father's name to save more than $20,000 on a Mercedes SUV he had shipped to his native Ghana. Now, eight years later, he's looking to make things right.

Kojo Annan wants to pay back the customs duties he skirted during the 1998 transaction that cast a shadow over him and his father during last year's probe into the United Nations oil-for-food scandal, according to Kojo Annan's attorney.

Investigators last year found that Kojo Annan "used false pretenses" in obtaining a diplomatic discount for a Mercedes ML 320 sport-utility vehicle he purchased in Geneva, Switzerland. (Read about Kofi Annan taking heat for his son)

The vehicle would've cost $45,597. But with the discount, Kojo Annan got the car for $39,056, a savings of $6,541, according to an investigative report by Paul Volcker.

Kojo Annan then convinced a U.N. official to send a letter to Ghana saying the SUV was for his father, making the shipment duty-free and saving Kojo Annan $14,103 in import taxes, the report states.

In a January 19 letter to Ghana's customs agency, Kojo Annan's attorney, William Taylor, wrote, "The automobile was not for the secretary-general's personal use and therefore the exemption was not justified."

"Kojo Annan wishes to make full payment of the amount due to the government of Ghana as a result of this transaction," Taylor wrote.

The letter asked that Ghana customs inform Kojo Annan what he owes.

Taylor has released documents showing the Mercedes was registered through the U.N. Development Program on December 24, 1998, and arrived in Accra, Ghana, six days later.

Kojo Annan told the Mercedes dealer that his father needed the car by Christmas for personal use, but Kofi Annan did not go to Ghana for the holidays that year, according to the Volcker report.

Neither Annan was immediately available for comment. But U.N. spokesman Stephanie Dujarric said, "He obviously misled his father."

Kofi Annan told Volcker investigators that he gave Kojo Annan $15,000 to help him buy the car but said he didn't realize his son was purchasing the car in his name.

The car was the subject of scrutiny because Kojo Annan had worked for Cotecna, a Swiss firm that was awarded a $10 million-a-year contract with the U.N. in 1998 to authenticate shipments of humanitarian goods into Iraq as part of the oil-for-food program.

The $64 billion program, which ran from 1996 to 2003, allowed Iraq, while still under international economic sanctions, to export a limited amount of its crude oil reserves and use the proceeds for food, medicine and supplies.

The program's critics suspected that the discounted Mercedes may have been Kojo Annan's kickback from Cotecna for the contract. Volcker's investigation determined Cotecna secured the contract through a legitimate bidding process.

Kojo Annan has repeatedly said he never attempted to persuade the U.N. to give Cotecna the contract and that his work with the Swiss firm involved no U.N. business.

The United Nations has remained silent on details about the vehicle, and Kofi Annan called a Times of London reporter "an overgrown schoolboy" last month after the reporter pressed him on the SUV's whereabouts.

The junior Annan won a libel case in November for accusations by Britain's The Sunday Times that Kojo Annan "told a close friend he became involved in negotiations to sell 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil to a Moroccan company in 2001." (Full story)

The newspaper settled the case, paying Kojo Annan $435,000 and apologizing for erroneous reporting.

CNN's Richard Roth, Liz Neisloss and Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.

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