- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2007

NEW YORK — A former U.N. official was convicted yesterday of helping a friend secure $100 million in U.N. contracts in exchange for a huge discount on two luxury Manhattan apartments and cash.

Sanjaya Bahel, 57, chief of the United Nations’ Commodity Procurement Section from 1999 to 2003, had maintained his innocence since his November arrest.

Bahel slumped in his chair when the verdicts were read convicting him of bribery, wire fraud and mail fraud. The charges carry a penalty of up to 30 years in prison.

Bahel, who is originally from India, will be kept in jail until sentencing, set for September. “I don’t know whether there could be some scheme to have him depart from the country,” said U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “is satisfied that justice has been done,” deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said, adding that the United Nations had provided trial evidence.

“The secretary-general expects all vendors, contractors and their representatives to conduct their business with the United Nations with highest levels of integrity and honesty,” Mr. Ban said. “Those who fail to do so will not be permitted to continue doing business with this organization.”

Bahel’s one-time co-defendant, Nishan Kohli, pleaded guilty to bribery and testified against him, saying Bahel gave his family so much inside information about pending contracts that the Kohlis came to think of Bahel as a business partner.

Kohli, of Miami, testified in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that Bahel met his father, Nanak Kohli, when both men worked in Washington in the early 1980s and socialized with others who had moved to the United States from India.

Kohli said the family sought Bahel’s help in securing about two dozen U.N. contracts, rewarding him with modest gifts such as a laptop computer and plane tickets. The Kohlis eventually let Bahel rent two luxury Midtown Manhattan apartments at a huge discount and later buy them cheap, he said.

Kohli said Bahel advised the family how to qualify for U.N. contracts it otherwise might not be awarded and even ghostwrote some of its correspondence with the United Nations.

He said the family gave Bahel a cell phone so other U.N. executives would not see hundreds of calls related to Bahel’s work for the Kohli businesses.

Kohli also testified that he bribed two U.N. procurement officers with a $6,000 night on the town that included a strip-club visit and a hotel room with prostitutes. He said he repeated the night for one of them a few more times, paying for a prostitute again.

Staff writer Betsy Pisik in New York contributed to this article.

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