The FBI arrested Russian diplomat Kuznetsov

A Russian diplomat who chairs a powerful U.N. budget committee was accused in an indictment Friday of helping hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs from companies seeking U.N. contracts.

The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering against Vladimir Kuznetsov was contained in a grand jury indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The FBI arrested Kuznetsov on Thursday, less than a month after arresting another Russian U.N. official over alleged money laundering. He was awaiting arraignment Friday in Manhattan federal court.

According to the indictment, Kuznetsov established an offshore company in 2000 to hide criminal proceeds he received from an unidentified U.N. procurement officer who had taken secret payments from foreign companies seeking contracts to provide goods and services to the United Nations.

Prosecutors said in a statement that the procurement officer in return gave the companies confidential U.N. information about the contracts. When the procurement officer told Kuznetsov about the scheme, Kuznetsov agreed to accept a share of the proceeds rather than report the conduct, prosecutors said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan waived Kuznetsov’s diplomatic immunity at the request of U.S. authorities. Kuznetsov heads the General Assembly panel that oversees the U.N. budget. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said his government was awaiting more information from U.S. law enforcement agencies and the U.N. Secretariat before making any statements. On Aug. 8, Alexander Yakovlev, a Russian who worked in the U.N. procurement office, was arrested for allegedly soliciting a bribe from a company seeking an oil-for-food contract. He has already pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering for allegedly accepting nearly $1 million in bribes from U.N. contractors in his work outside the oil-for- food program, AP reports.

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