The London-based Financial Times and the Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 said the payments that totalled at least $300,000 "were arranged in ways that obscured where the money came from or whom it went to". 

 

The two papers, which conducted a joint investigation, also reported on Wednesday that the secretary-general met top executives of the company, Cotecna Inspection SA, twice before the oil-for-food contract was awarded in December 1998 and once afterwards.

 

Former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, who is conducting an independent investigation of alleged corruption in the oil-for-food programme, is scheduled to release an interim report on 29 March detailing his findings about whether or not Kofi Annan and Kojo Annan committed any wrongdoing.

 

Denial

 

The secretary-general, his son, and Cotecna, all deny any wrongdoing.

 

A spokesman for Cotecna said the company had been cooperating fully in assisting the Volcker inquiry "to clarify any and all outstanding questions concerning payment to Kojo Annan".

 

Robert Massey (L) is accused of
paying Kojo $2500 a month

Robert Massey, Cotecna's chief executive, met Volcker and his investigators in New York on Monday to discuss the discrepancies in the reported payments to Kojo Annan and the company's ongoing audit to determine the correct amount, the spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

 

The spokesman confirmed the three contacts between Cotecna executives and the secretary-general and said they were reported to Volcker and other bodies investigating the $63 billion UN humanitarian programme in Iraq.

 

The papers reported that Annan, in January 1997, met Massey and his father, Elie-Georges Massey, Cotecna's founder and chairman, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

 

The elder Massey also met Annan at UN headquarters in September 1998 and sought him out at a public event in Geneva in January 1999, the papers said.

 

Million dollar contract

 

A UN spokesman and Cotecna were quoted in the papers as saying the meetings with Annan had nothing to do with the contract to certify the import of goods under the oil-for-food programme. 

 

The papers said the contract was ultimately worth about $60 million to the Swiss company.

 

UN spokesman Fred Eckhard had no immediate comment on the reports in the two papers.

 

Kojo Annan worked for Cotecna in West Africa from 1995 to December 1997 and then as a consultant until the end of 1998, according to the company.

 

Annan was said to be surprised
by the scandal involving his son

In November, Eckhard said Kojo Annan's lawyer had informed the Volcker investigation that the younger Annan continued to receive $2500 a month - $30,000 a year - from Cotecna for more than five years to February 2004.

 

The secretary-general said at the time he was "very disappointed and surprised" that his son continued to receive money after 1998. Cotecna said the payments were made under a "non-compete" contract to prevent Kojo Annan from working for a competing company.

 

Swiss law

 

According to the Financial Times and Il Sole 24, Kojo Annan's non-compete contract did not appear to adhere to Swiss law which says such agreements cannot exceed three years, except in certain circumstances, and must be limited geographically - which his was not.

 

The papers also reported that records provided by Cotecna and Kojo Annan to US and UN investigators showed the method of paying him changed several times.

 

The oil-for-food programme, which ran from 1996 to 2003, allowed the former Iraqi government to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods, as an exemption from UN sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

 

In a bid to curry favour and end sanctions, Saddam allegedly gave former government officials, activists, journalists and UN officials vouchers for Iraqi oil that could then be resold at a profit.