- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

A senior investigator who resigned in protest from the U.N.-appointed panel probing the oil-for-food scandal has given Congress internal documents from the inquiry that are thought to be harshly critical of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The delivery poses more problems for the embattled Mr. Annan and escalates the open feud between U.S. lawmakers and the U.N. probe headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker for control of the investigation.

Robert Parton, a former FBI agent and the top investigator with the United Nations’ $30 million oil-for-food investigation, delivered at least a half-dozen boxes of documents to comply with a subpoena issued last week by the House International Relations Committee.

Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, praised Mr. Parton for complying and warned Mr. Volcker’s panel against seeking retribution for his cooperation.

“It is my hope and expectation that neither the United Nations nor the [Volcker] inquiry will attempt to sanction Mr. Parton for complying with a lawful subpoena,” Mr. Hyde said yesterday.

Mr. Hyde and committee sources refused to characterize the material provided by Mr. Parton, saying investigators are still going through it.

But Mr. Parton and Miranda Duncan, another senior investigator hired by Mr. Volcker, resigned last month from the investigation to protest what they said was a watered-down account of Mr. Annan’s role in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal.

Mr. Volcker’s March 29 report cleared the secretary-general of the central charge of steering a key oil-for-food contract to a Swiss company that employed his son, although it did fault the U.N. leader for a superficial investigation of the charges once they came to light.

Mr. Annan immediately declared himself “exonerated” on the most serious charges against him, a characterization that Mr. Volcker and others have disputed.

It is thought that among the subpoenaed material turned over to the House committee were earlier drafts of the public report that took a much tougher line on Mr. Annan and his numerous contacts with the Swiss contractor before and after the award was made.

Mr. Volcker said yesterday afternoon that Mr. Parton appeared to have violated confidentiality pledges by complying with the subpoena.

He said the calls by Congress for sensitive internal details of his inquiry’s operations could undermine the panel’s future investigations.

“That work requires confidentiality with respect both to sources who have entrusted the inquiry with vital information and to the [inquiry’s] own deliberations,” Mr. Volcker said.

“Staff members who have voluntarily assumed the privileges and responsibilities associated with work with the [U.N. investigation] cannot, in my judgment, reasonably and honorably violate those pledges of confidentiality and acceptance of immunity at the expense of their former colleagues,” he added.

Rep. Christopher Shays, the Connecticut Republican who chairs a separate House probe into the oil-for-food scandal, earlier this week warned the Volcker panel against using “reflexive secrecy and legalisms” to block Mr. Parton from cooperating with Congress.

Mr. Volcker’s panel yesterday also released an exchange of letters between U.N. legal experts and Mr. Parton’s attorney, Lanny Davis.

In a May 2 letter to Susan M. Ringler, legal counsel to the Volcker committee, Mr. Davis said his client had originally declined to comply with Mr. Hyde’s subpoena when it was delivered April 29.

But Mr. Davis said U.N. officials had failed to document why Mr. Parton had immunity from a congressional subpoena and had not specifically ordered the investigator to defy Congress. He said Mr. Hyde’s committee had specifically ordered Mr. Parton not to inform U.N. officials of the subpoena until he had complied with its demands.

“Mr. Parton had no choice but to comply with the subpoena. And we have done so,” Mr. Davis said.

But Miss Ringler said that Mr. Parton qualified as an “expert on mission” to the United Nations and that all subpoenas should have been forwarded to the United Nations.

“Your deliberate decision not to advise the [Volcker panel] and the U.N. that a subpoena had been issued calls into question your motivations,” she wrote Mr. Davis.

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