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UN admits to 500,000-dollar peacekeeper telephone fraud in Eritrea

3/25/2005 5:27am

ASMARA, March 24 (AFP) -- The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) acknowledged Thursday that some of its peacekeepers and civilian staff had defrauded the operation of more than 500,000 dollars in telephone charges.

In a statement, UNMEE said mission personnel in Eritrea had rung up 503,000 dollars (388,000 euros) in unpaid international telephone calls two years ago and that it was seeking restitution for most of the losses.

The fraud took place between April and December 2003 and involved various schemes including the illicit redistribution of PIN codes used for international calls and abuse of a system which allowed UNMEE workers a one-minute grace period before being charged for a connection, it said.

Suspecting fraud, UNMEE staff performed a "manual verification of 1.4 million lines of computer billing data" to come up with the amount lost, 364,000 dollars of which the mission has asked to be repaid.

UNMEE has asked UN missions in New York to which the unnamed perpetrators are affiliated to pay the arrears, it said. Only 14,000 dollars of that has been paid thus far, it said.

UNMEE, which has 3,000 peacekeepers patrolling the tense border between Eritrea and Ethiopia on the Eritrean side, initiated the one-minute grace period because of the difficulties in placing international calls from there.

The program was ended in January 2004, it said, adding that those committing the fraud were peacekeepers and a small number of UNMEE civilian personnel.

To read the UNMEE press statement please go at

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