Corruption and Incompetence
Corruption Scandal at the U.N.

Former United Nations General Assembly President John Ashe was arrested today as part a larger investigation by U.S. District Attorney Preet Bharara, the Wall Street Journal reports:

Authorities allege that John Ashe, a former ambassador to the U.N. for Antigua and Barbuda who led the U.N.’s 68th General Assembly in 2013, accepted more than $1 million in bribes in various forms from Chinese businesspeople in exchange for advancing their interests in the U.N., including support for a U.N. conference center in Macau.

Mr. Ashe is charged with two counts of tax fraud in connection with the scheme, which extended from 2011 through 2014, according to the complaint released Tuesday by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. Attorney information for Mr. Ashe wasn’t immediately available. A spokesman for the U.N. didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

It is unusual to see U.N. officials charged with corruption, because international organizations often escape the kind of press scrutiny, political investigations, and auditing that national organizations have to face. Those who think FIFA is an outlier are deluding themselves; that scandal was merely a particularly visible example of a big problem that too often is hidden from the public.

When they have happened, investigations into these organizations have uncovered a lot of corruption. Given what we know about the overall dishonesty and incompetence of international organizations ranging from UN peace-keeping organizations to the EU (the annual budgets of which are often full of unexplained gaps), these bodies clearly need more scrutiny. We hope this latest probe is a sign of a new investigative attitude.

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