NoonShadow

An expat's commentary on current events in national security, foreign affairs, the media, culture, technology and assorted trivia.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

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Another UN scandal uncovered (but $1 mln is small beer for UN bureaucrats)

The United Nations ought to be renamed 'Old Faithful,' as you can always rely on them to provide sterling examples of corruption:

UNDP Office Snared in Fraud Probe By Anna Smolchenko

An internal UN investigation has uncovered a case of long-running fraud in the Moscow office of the United Nations Development Program that may have cost the organization $1.2 million.

UNDP auditors believe a group of staff members stole funds by forging contracts, tender documents, invoices and payment orders over a four-year period, the UNDP said Tuesday.

"The investigation is ongoing, but a preliminary accounting suggests that about $1.2 million in UNDP project funds was stolen between 2000 and 2004," said a UNDP spokesman. "The culprits are believed to be a group of staff members who worked in the office's operations division. All the suspects were local staff who left UNDP before the theft was discovered."

Stefan Vassilev, the head of the UNDP's Russia office since 2003, has been suspended from his duties until the probe is complete. Bulgarian-born Vassilev has been questioned as a witness in the investigation, said a UN source familiar with the situation.

Neither Vassilev nor his deputy, acting head Kaarina Immonen, was available for comment on Tuesday.

About 40 people work in the UNDP's Moscow office, six in the operations division, which deals with financial issues.

Since opening in 1997, the office has channeled more than $56 million into projects promoting democracy, poverty reduction and economic development.

Nobody has been fired as a result of the investigation, said Victoria Zotikova, UNDP spokeswoman in Russia.

Tatyana Gorlach, the head of the operations division and a longtime employee in the Russia office, quit in April before the probe began, Zotikova said. Several other employees have also left, she said, without elaborating.

There are four suspects, all of them local staff, said the UN source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the issue.

The Russian government has responded "positively" to a request for assistance from national law enforcement agencies, the UNDP said, and the City Prosecutor's Office is cooperating with the investigation.

A spokesman for the city police said he knew nothing about the UNDP investigation. The prosecutor's office could not be reached for comment.

"This appears to be a sophisticated operation that has been difficult to detect," said William Orme, UNDP spokesman in New York. "Unfortunately, we detected it only this year."

Zotikova said the probe was expected to be completed in a month. Internal audits are carried out regularly, she said.

The problem of missing cash plagues the United Nations. More than $300 million in UN funds has been wasted or stolen in the past 10 years, according to the UN's internal watchdog.

In one well-known case, a senior member of the UN Mission in Kosovo embezzled $4.3 million, which he transferred to a bank account in Gibraltar. He was later arrested and sentenced to 3 1/2-years in prison by a German court.

Over the past seven years, the UNDP has spent $56 million on Russian projects. Zotikova said $18 million was spent in 2004 alone. Last year, the organization began a program to boost the economy of the North Caucasus.

Zotikova said that the Moscow office was expected to get a new head, as Vassilev was not returning.


(Emphasis added.)

Yes, '(t)he problem of missing cash plagues the United Nations,' indeed. (Not to mention the problems of gang rape and pedophilia.)

So, what does the UN want? The same things that it always wants... more money and more power!

Kemal DerviĊŸ, in his first press briefing as the new Administrator of UNDP, argued for more funding for development as well as greater aid effectiveness... (16 August 2005)

What is Turkish for chutzpah? Well, sure, they want some more money. They are US$1.2 million short in Russia!

According to its own website, the 'UNDP helps developing countries attract and use aid effectively.'

Has the UNDP used its funds for aid effectively?

(Rhetorical question alert.) Or has it merely been funneled this aid into the Grand Cayman accounts of its much-deserving, tireless, caring UN employees, instead of helping the causes of poverty reduction and human rights in Russia?

Those paragons of selfless humanity- let's put our treasure, our lives, indeed our national security in their hands.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

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Cover your bruises, ladies!

A dose of atypical fare, here are the rules at the Moscow Spearmint Rhino Gentlemen's Club:

Dancers are forbidden:
  • to drink to drunkenness
  • to walk around the club with a cigarette, food, etc.
  • to walk around undressed
  • to chew gum and leave it on chairs
  • to wear street clothes
  • to argue with guests
  • to receive a massage from a guest
  • to discuss relationships with guests and co-workers
  • to exchange phone numbers with guests

Dancers must:
  • always have a toothbrush and breath mints
  • always wear heels, even if not dancing
  • arrive 30 minutes before their shift
  • fix hair and makeup after each private dance
  • tip the DJ

Attention dancers! We all know you're beautiful, but these are the rules:
  • Wash and style your hair before each show
  • Make regular appointments with the stylist
  • Use body lotion, deodorant and perfume
  • Get regular manicures and pedicures. Your heels should be as soft as a child's
  • Pluck your eyebrows
  • Make sure all tattoos and bruises are covered
  • Keep your legs and underarms bare (shaved)
  • Keep all intimate areas bare (shaved) except for a vertical stripe
  • Between acts, use wet napkins regularly
  • You may not leave the club without the manager's approval
  • No boyfriends, husbands, fathers or uncles

When a customer enters the club:
  • Approach him, offer a dance, converse, get acquainted, have him buy you a drink
  • If, after 5 songs, there is no result, you politely excuse yourself
  • You must endeavor to get a guest to go to the private booth


Damn interesting material from Property Magazine of Moscow (an Impress Media publication), which carried an interview with the manager of the Moscow club.

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Quote for the day

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

- Gautama Buddha (c. 563 BC - c. 483)
Nepalese philosopher