saving or just WWII memories to fall back on? How could we spend the money better in 2005?
he tempest inside the World Meteorological Organization began with a single check.
An accountant working late one night in July 2003 at the United Nations-affiliated weather agency in Geneva spotted a check that he had signed, but noticed that someone had endorsed it to an unknown third party, one L. Khalil. The accountant's curiosity was piqued, and he began nosing around.
"Within half an hour I had found about 25 checks worth about $400,000 that had not gone to where they were supposed to go," said the accountant, Luckson Ngwira.
That led to a formal audit and a continuing criminal investigation by Swiss authorities at the sleepy agency, focusing on allegations of embezzlement of training funds by Muhammad Hassan, a Sudanese employee who controlled that money. Investigators allege in documents and interviews that Mr. Hassan stole as much as $3 million over three or four years.
This might be a simple embezzlement case, except that in addition to the money, Mr. Hassan is missing as well. A woman claiming to be Mr. Hassan's wife filed a death certificate, which Sudanese officials have told investigators is fake.
The investigation and the ensuing tumult has rocked an agency where excitement usually only comes with extreme weather. "This is bigger than Ben Hur," said Kathleen Charles, who was the agency's chief administrator before resigning in late 2003. "It has kept growing and growing."
The agency, which aims to coordinate and improve weather reporting around the globe, is small by United Nations standards, with just