Subject: Canada Foreign Aid Cash Missing

The Ottawa Sun

January 15, 2004 Thursday Final Edition

FOREIGN AID CASH MISSING; MOUNTIE AT CENTRE OF MISAPPROPRIATION PROBE

BY BOB KLAGER, OTTAWA SUN

A RESPECTED RCMP member deployed to the UN's mission in the former East Timor is at the centre of an international criminal probe into thousands of dollars in missing foreign aid, the Sun has learned.

The Ottawa-based Mountie, a member of the force's international peacekeeping section, is currently on suspension with pay pending the outcome of an internal RCMP inquiry and an ongoing investigation by UN police.

Authorities were first alerted to the missing money, said to be part of a joint relief program funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the government of New Zealand, as early as last summer.

"There is an investigation going on regarding allegations of criminal activity by an RCMP member serving with the UN in East Timor," Sgt. Jocelyn Mimeault, a spokesman at RCMP national headquarters in Ottawa, confirmed this week. "The RCMP is reviewing the matter as is common practice when allegations of misconduct are made against an employee.

'DISGUSTING'

"There is a UN police investigation but obviously any questions pertaining to any investigation being conducted by the UN police in East Timor would have to be addressed through UN authorities," he said. "The RCMP is aware of the allegations ... relating to the misappropriation of funds. I can't really confirm the specifics."

However, a source told the Sun a minimum of $20,000 US is involved and the officer in question is suspected of working with an accomplice connected to a Canadian non-governmental organization also serving in the region. The Mountie, who returned to Ottawa last July, was not permitted to return to the mission area.

"This situation is particularly disgusting," the source said. "It jeopardizes international relations and seriously tarnishes the commendable work of positively recognized organizations such as the RCMP, the UN and Canadians in UN mission areas."

Suzanne Quinn, a spokeswoman for CIDA in Ottawa, said the development agency has known about the allegations for some time. However, Quinn couldn't confirm a specific dollar amount involved or whether it was CIDA or the UN which initially brought concerns to the attention of police.

$5.39M IN AID

"CIDA is aware that the matter is under review with the RCMP. I know that we were aware of this and it's been ongoing," she said. "As long as it's under investigation, we're not in a position to comment any further."

Since 1979, Canada has been one of the most active donors in the violence-plagued country, now known as Timor-Leste, providing millions of dollars through CIDA-facilitated programs.

According to the agency's most recent public statistics, Canada provided the country a total of $5.39 million in overseas development assistance for the fiscal year 2001-02.

"CIDA funds very credible international organizations," Quinn said. "There are regular visits to the field and reporting mechanisms. I can just say we've had excellent experience with these international organizations, we continue to fund them, we work very well with them and ... we are very pleased, very satisfied with the work we do with them."


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