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Millions lost to fraud at UNICEF

Published Oct. 4, 2005

In the worst scandal in its history, the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) disclosed Thursday that 24 employees in its Kenya office stole or squandered $10-million.

The fraud consumed more than a fourth of the agency's $37-million two-year budget for the African nation, which paid for 300 full-time and temporary staff in eight locations.

Carol Bellamy, UNICEF's executive director, said the scandal involved padded expense accounts, funneling money to bogus organizations, payment for non-existent services, double billing, non-existent medical treatment and collusion with banks and contractors. Auditors also found gross mismanagement, she said, including excessive entertainment and travel expenses and drivers and secretaries dispensing cash around Kenya.

Bellamy said eight Kenya staff members had been dismissed and charges were pending against another 15, including two former directors of the country office. Most of the staff is Kenyan; six are foreigners.

UNICEF, founded in 1946, provides basic health, nutrition, water, sanitation and education to children. It has an annual income of more than $1-billion and a staff of 7,500 in 131 countries.

Young crusader's death explained

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan _ A 12-year-old who led an international campaign against child labor was killed in a petty dispute and not by the carpet industry he condemned, an independent group said Thursday.

The Human Rights Commission said it found no evidence to support allegations that carpet industry officials were involved in the April 16 killing of Iqbal Masih outside the eastern city of Lahore.

Pakistan's major carpet industry says it lost millions of dollars in orders after the Bonded Labor Liberation Front, a private group fighting child labor in Pakistan, accused it of involvement in Iqbal's death.

Numerous witnesses told the rights group that Iqbal, who worked as a carpet weaver from age 4 to 10, and two relatives were riding home on a bike when they got into a quarrel with a farm worker who fired at the youths with a shotgun, killing Iqbal.

Bomb kills 8 near school in Turkey

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey _ A bomb exploded near a primary school in southeast Turkey on Thursday, killing eight people.

"It was powerful," said regional emergency rule governor Unal Erkan. "About 20 people were injured, but thank goodness the schoolchildren were safe."

The governor's office blamed the attack on the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. It said the bomb, "made by PKK terrorists, exploded in the hand of a terrorist" as it was being planted at a minibus stop opposite a school in Batman.

The Marxist PKK took up arms in 1984 for control of southeast Turkey, where 10 provinces are under emergency rule. More than 16,000 people have been killed in the insurgency.

Mandela's shoes attract $7,100 bid

LONDON _ The ostrich-skin shoes that Nelson Mandela wore in 1990 when he gained his freedom after 27 years in prison were sold at a charity auction Thursday for $7,100 to the company that made them.

"We had no idea he was wearing them on that historic day. But he certainly had very good taste," said Jeremy Martin of the Sterling and Hunt shoe company after the sale at Christie's auction house.

Half the proceeds will go to a Mandela fund to help alleviate the suffering of children in South Africa. The other half will go to research for helping premature babies in Britain.

Elsewhere . . .

GROZNY, Russia _ As Russian forces continued an assault on rebels in the southern Chechnya region, talks to end the war broke off abruptly Thursday when the Russians walked out.