From the Chicago Tribune: Did UN agency serve as ATM for North Korea?
By Bay Fang
Published March 11, 2007
WASHINGTON -- The United Nations Development Programme office in Pyongyang, North Korea, sits in a Soviet-style compound. Like clockwork, a North Korean official wearing a standard-issue dark windbreaker and slacks would come to the door each business day.
He would take a manila envelope stuffed with cash--a healthy portion of the UN's disbursements for aid projects in the country--and leave without ever providing receipts.
According to sources at the UN, this went on for years, resulting in the transfer of up to $150 million in hard foreign currency to the Kim Jong Il government at a time when the United States was trying to keep North Korea from receiving hard currency as part of its sanctions against the Kim regime.
"At the end, we were being used completely as an ATM machine for the regime," said one UN official with extensive knowledge of the program. "We were completely a cash cow, the only cash cow in town. The money was going to the regime whenever they wanted it."
Earlier this month, the development program, known as UNDP, quietly suspended operations in North Korea, saying it could not operate under guidelines imposed by its executive board in January that prohibited payments in hard currency and forbade the employment of local workers handpicked by the North Korean government.
But some diplomats suspect the timing of the suspension was heavily influenced by a looming audit that could have proved embarrassing to the UN.
Embarrassing? The UN embarrassed? Since when does corruption embarrass the very embodiment of corruption?
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