UN corruption cops commence probe into domain-name and patent body WIPO

Worry Gurry, super scurry, call the troops out in a hurry

The global domain-name and patents agency WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organisation) is under investigation by the UN's corruption investigation unit – the Office of Internal Oversight – The Register can reveal.

UN investigators based in Vienna have opened a preliminary investigation into allegations of DNA theft, improper IT procurement and mismanagement at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

National ambassadors on WIPO's General Assembly, which provides nominal oversight of WIPO, called for an investigation last month, but it was not clear if any action would be taken.

The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) will be looking at long-standing allegations against WIPO boss Francis Gurry. He's accused of ordering his security chief to illegally take items from senior staff offices in order to test them for DNA. Tests were carried out at a Geneva-based lab on orders from the Swiss police, despite WIPO staff having diplomatic immunity and the DNA samples being seized without due process.

The samples were taken as part of an unsuccessful attempt to find out who had sent anonymous letters of complaint to WIPO making allegations regarding Gurry's behaviour and financial probity.

He is also accused of overruling an IT procurement decision in favour of a bid from an acquaintance, despite cheaper bids being on the table.

Gurry sacked the head of the staff council Moncef Kateb before he was due to give a critical speech to the Ambassadors' General Assembly. Kateb had fallen foul of Gurry when he reported him for shipping computer equipment to North Korea and Iran in an apparent breach of UN Security Council sanctions.

At least two previous investigations into the WIPO allegations by KPMG and Labyrinth Consulting have been sclosed down, allegedly on Gurry's orders.

Gurry has also refused to explain a mysterious payment made by his office to one of WIPO's auditors, referred to as “Mr X”.

In a letter, details of which were first revealed by The Register, WIPO's staff council asked:

Did neither the Director General nor Mr X realise that for the former to allocate a significant monetary sum to the latter in the present circumstances would, if the facts were ever revealed, cast a deeply worrying light on both of them?

Accounts seen by The Register confirm the payment. The documents describe the 12,000-Swiss-Franc payment as being for: "smooth and efficient running of the Office of the Director General".

The scandal is rapidly drawing in other diplomats and politicians. James Pooley was deputy director general at WIPO until he retired in November 2014. He has written to US Secretary of State John Kerry demanding action.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has also been drawn in. She was contacted by Miranda Brown – previously Francis Gurry's special advisor. Brown outlined the allegations against Gurry, whose re-election was supported by the Australian government.

David Holly, the Department of Foreign Affairs assistant secretary for intellectual property, told the Australian Financial Review: “The Australian government supports the proper and timely resolution of these allegations and accountability and transparency in all international organisations."

Gurry has previously said all the allegations are without foundation. WIPO, contacted prior to publication of this story, declined to comment.

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