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Monday, October 15, 2007

Annals of Russian "Diplomacy"

The Associated Press reports:

A former Russian diplomat who once chaired the United Nations' powerful budget oversight committee was sentenced Friday to four years and three months in prison for laundering money from companies seeking U.N. contracts. Vladimir Kuznetsov, 49, also was fined $73,000 by U.S. District Court Judge Deborah A. Batts, who noted the government's claim that he could not account for ten times that amount in assets. "I never meant to damage and spoil the image of the United Nations — quite the opposite," he told the court. "To the extent that any damage has been done to that image, I deeply regret it." The government asked that he be imprisoned immediately but the judge allowed him to remain free for 10 days. Kuznetsov hugged family and friends as he left court. A jury convicted Kuznetsov in March of conspiring with a U.N. procurement officer to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies seeking U.N. contracts. A budget expert and career diplomat, Kuznetsov was charged in 2005 after an internal U.N. investigation of Alexander Yakovlev, a Russian who worked in the U.N. procurement office. Yakovlev pleaded guilty in 2005 to soliciting a bribe, wire fraud and money laundering, admitting he took nearly $1 million in bribes from U.N. contractors and gave them confidential information about the contracts. The government said Kuznetsov established an offshore company in 2000 to hide payments from Yakovlev, who would testify against him. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan waived Kuznetsov's immunity at the request of U.S. authorities.
Reuters adds: "The Kuznetsov case has been the subject of intense media coverage in Russia, with some commentators saying the charges against him were fabricated for political reasons." The Foreign Ministry said it was "disappointed" with the result and indicated "it did not rule out seeking Kuznetsov's repatriation to Russia under a convention on the handover of convicted criminals."

So, let La Russophobe see if she understands: Russia's charges against exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky are not political, they have nothing to do with Berezovsky's criticism of Vladimir Putin's dictatorship, Russia is only seeking truth and justice. But these charges, supported by a jury verdict in federal court following the approval of the U.N. Secretary General, are nothing but an American scam designed to . . . do just what, exactly? What is it, precisely, that Russians think Americans gain by railroading this innocent victim into prison? And it's perfectly fine for Russia to refuse to transfer Andrei Lugovoi, accused killer of Alexander Litvinenko on British soil, to London for trial, but America should send this convicted felon back to Russia?

And so it goes in Russia.

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