ICP Asked About Lorenzo's Bribery, US Cites UN Audit, Not South South News
By Matthew Russell Lee, Follow Up on Exclusives
UNITED NATIONS, March 16 -- For more than six months Inner City Press has asked the UN about its dealings with Frank Lorenzo, former Deputy Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic and head of South South News, who has now formally pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery at the UN.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who had accepted a prize from Lorenzo, has yet to comment; Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric on February 9 told Inner City Press, “I'm done answering questions.” Vine here.
Inner City Press on March 15 asked US State Department spokesperson John Kirby, transcript here, Vine here, full video here, from Minute 21:02:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you, there was – today – it was announced today that the deputy ambassador of the Dominican Republic, Frank Lorenzo, is set to plead guilty to bribery charges at the UN. So I wanted to ask, what’s the State Department’s view of that case? Do you view it as just a slip-up in the president of the General Assembly’s office, or is it a reflection of a wider corruption or sale of access at the UN and what the Government Accountability Project also calls retaliation against the press reporting on the case? Do you – what do you make of this case that began in October and is ongoing, the wheels are turning?
MR KIRBY: I’m going to have to take that question. I do not believe I have anything for you on that. So you’re going to have to let me get back to you.
On the afternoon of March 16, when Inner City Press asked Kirby's deputy Mark Toner the above questions, along with questions on Yemen, Sudan and genocide, a State Department official on background answered Inner City Press:
"Rooting out fraud and corruption, and advancing accountability is a priority for the United States, and has been for many years. In addition to ongoing legal action in the Southern District of New York, we support the Secretary General’s request for an Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) audit of the interaction between the UN and the Global Sustainability Foundation and the Sun Kian Ip Group, and the use of any funds received from these entities. As this matter is under ongoing investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office, as well as by the UN and OIOS, it would be inappropriate to comment further."
We'll have more on this - for example on what the indictment calls "NGO-1," which is South South News, and about the US and the GAP letter. Watch this site.
On February 19 Inner City Press was ordered out of the UN, which it has covered for ten years as a Resident Correspondent with a shared office full of files, by a letter signed that day with two hours notice by Under Secretary General for Public Information Cristina Gallach - who attended the September 2015 South South Awards with Lorenzo, photo here.
On Gallach's order, and with the participation of Ban's spokesman Dujarric, Inner City Press was thrown out onto First Avenue along with its laptop, but without its passport still in its shared office, by eight UN Security guards.Audio here. On February 22, UN Security told Inner City Press it was Banned from all UN premises.
After stories in BuzzFeed and Business Insider, Inner City Press re-entered the UN on a much reduced “non-resident correspondent” pass, Banned from covering such events as UN Security Council reform, Sri Lanka and terrorism, and the Office of the President of the General Assembly. (Inner City Press has continued, with sources, to report, for example here.)
The harassment continued: hours after Inner City Press raised its case orally to Ban Ki-moon and his deputy, UN Security against physically ordered Inner City Press to leave the UN, at 8 pm. Video here.
Dujarric said it is not his job to find Inner City Press a place to work. Q&A here. More and seemingly final threats were made on March 14 -- just before it emerged that Lorenzo is pleading guilty to bribery charges. Now what?
The UN has proved itself unable to reform itself. Under Secretaries General Inner City Press contacted about Gallach's outrageous no due process order, and her failure to recuse herself, did nothing. One said, You can only speak with Gallach; another said, I don't get involved in individual cases.
On March 14, after the threats and asked about Inner City Press' detailed email about the violation of its rights as a journalist, a third USG said, Do you expect me to respond to that? Well, yes.
The DC-based Government Accountability Project wrote to the US Mission to the UN urging them to work to get Inner City Press' resident correspondent accreditation and office restored. But US Ambassador for Management and Reform Isobel Coleman did not even respond to Inner City Press' detailed March 3 email; an oral question to Samantha Power at the UN Security Council stakeout on March 14 after the threats has gone unanswered. Vine here.
Now what? Beyond Lorenzo's guilty plea, how will the UN be cleaned up? All retaliatory acts must be rescinded and appropriate impartial investigations launched.
The pretext Gallach used to oust Inner City Press was its attempt on January 29 to cover a meeting of the UN Correspondents Association, which took money from Lorenzo's South South News and then granted a photo op with Ban Ki-moon to the main funder, also indicted Ng Lap Seng.
The meeting was in the UN Press Briefing Room, apparently “lent” to UNCA by Ban's spokesman Dujarric, who at UNCA boss Giampaolo Pioli's request came in and told Inner City Press to leave so he could see his “f*cking kids.”
Inner City Press said it would leave the glassed in interpreter's booth from which it was live-streaming the meeting as soon as UN Security asked it to. One guard came in and said that Spokesman Dujarric wanted Inner City Press to leave, which it did, and published a story and video.
Without once speaking to Inner City Press, Gallach used this “incident” as a pretext to throw Inner City Press out. Inner City Press has asked the UN the following questions:
Please explain the lending of the UN Press Briefing Room to Lorenzo, and that it was not listed in the days' UN Media Alert.
Please explain USG Gallach's appearance with Lorenzo at the South South Awards, which ICP reported, and that USG Gallach did not recuse herself from ordering Inner City Press' expulsion from its UN office on 2 hours' notice on February 19.
Please explain your [Dujarric's] role, on January 29 to February 19, in the expulsion of Inner City Press.
Please state who lend the UN Press Briefing Room to UNCA on Jan 29.
As a matter of UN ethics, shouldn't USG Gallach have offered me an opportunity to be heard, some due process?
As a matter of UN ethics, to whom an the UN Press Briefing Room be "lent," and by whom, on what basis, without disclosure?
Please provide your response: should staff of the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General, and staff of DPI, accept free liquor and other gift from UNCA, while giving UNCA the UN Press Briefing Room and ousting other journalist whom UNCA's leadership doesn't like?
Please state, no or yes and explain: Do staff of the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General provide advance copies of UN documents to favored journalists who are affiliated to UNCA?
And now: “This is a formal request for Ban Ki-moon's comment on the guilty plea for conspiracy to commit bribery etc by Frank Lorenzo.” Watch this site.