UNITED NATIONS, April 18 -- A senior U.N. official said Monday that he "was associated" with a company that received investments from a South Korean businessman who was charged last week with lobbying U.N. officials as an unregistered agent for Saddam Hussein's government.
Maurice F. Strong, a Canadian businessman who serves as Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy to Pyongyang, acknowledged that the South Korean, Tongsun Park, poured money into an energy company "with which I was associated" in 1997. Strong said he has maintained "a relationship" with Park, who was born in what is now North Korea and counseled Strong on his dealings with the North Korean regime.
Tongsun Park is charged in the U.N. oil-for-food program scandal.
Strong did not name the company but said he would cooperate with an ongoing federal criminal investigation into corruption in the $64 billion U.N. oil-for-food program. He said he would also cooperate with a U.N.-appointed panel probing wrongdoing in the program.
Strong's admission comes less than a week after the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, David N. Kelley, issued a criminal complaint charging Park with acting as an "unregistered agent" of the former Iraqi regime to lobby senior U.N. officials for favorable terms in the oil-for-food program.
The complaint cites a charge by a confidential government witness that Park received $2 million in payments from the Iraqi government, including a bribe to "take care" of an official identified as U.N. Official No. 1. Another unnamed government witness alleged that Park invested $1 million between late 1996 and 1997 in a Canadian company set up by the son of another "high-ranking" official, identified as U.N. Official No. 2.
Strong did not say whether he is the second official. Strong's son Frederick is a Canadian businessman with an aptitude for "closing complex international deals," according to the Web site of Sea Breeze Energy Inc. A company official said Strong no longer worked there and he did not know where to reach him.
Strong, a Canadian energy executive who chaired the 1992 U.N. environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro, has carried out special assignments for the United Nations since 1970. He was appointed special envoy for U.N. reform in January 1997, providing him with direct access to Annan. He was named special envoy to North Korea in 2003.
Strong's statement said his dealings with Park were unrelated to the oil-for-food program. "I have had no involvement or connection whatsoever with the U.N.'s Iraqi oil-for-food program or any other Iraqi activities," he wrote.
Researcher Carmen E. Chapin contributed to this report.