UN official fired after handing over $58m to man and $3m to his daughter to produce Joss Stone songAuthor: Yuvi January 27, 2023
The United Nations fired one of their top officials after discovering he was a part of a scandal that involved the intergovernmental organization loaning $61million to a British father and daughter ‘for charitable projects’ after diplomats met them at a party in New York.
Vitaly Vanshelboim is a Ukrainian citizen who served as Assistant Secretary-General and Chief Executive of UNOPS Sustainable Infrastructure Impact Investments, a program meant to join forces with private banks to operate a for-profit investment bank.
Vanshelboim is alleged to have given $58million from the agency to three businessman David Kendrick and his 22-year-old daughter Daisy. Kendrick, the founder of Sustainable Housing Solutions (SHS), was supposed to use it for projects like building houses in developing countries.
It’s unclear how much money actually went to those projects and the UN is claiming $22million of it is still missing, but Daisy Kendrick and her company We Are The Oceans (WATO) allegedly gave $3million to produce the pop song ‘Oceans’ performed by singer Joss Stone, who was not paid and has said she did it for free because she thought it was a fundraising project.
Vitaly Vanshelboim (pictured), a Ukrainian citizen who served as Assistant Secretary-General and Chief Executive of UNOPS Sustainable Infrastructure Impact Investments, a program meant to join forces with private banks to operate a for-profit investment bank. Instead Vanshelboin is alleged to have given all $61million to businessman David Kendrick and his 22-year-old daughter Daisy
The UN agency also gave Daisy Kendrick, who interned at the UN after graduating from Northeastern University in Boston, the $3 million to create an ocean-themed video game by the makers of Angry Birds and a website raising awareness about environmental threats to oceans, the New York Times reported.
Kendrick’s businesses – three of which received loans but have been named as a single entity by his lawyers – have failed to pay back more than $22 million to the organization, money which is meant for aid, and the repayments are overdue, according to The New York Times.
Kendrick and his daughter were introduced to UN officials at a party in the Upper East Side apartment of magazine editor Gloria Starr Kins in 2015 by Paulo Zampolli, an Italian-born businessman who claims he introduced former President Donald Trump to his third wife Melanie.
It was after this party, hosted by UNOPS head Grete Faremo, that the agency loaned $58.8 million – the agency’s entire investment portfolio at the time – to three companies appearing to be connected to Kendrick between 2018 and 2020 under a UN scheme called S31.
These investments included lending $8.8million to a business investing in a wind farm in Mexico, $35 million to building housing in developing countries, and $15million to a company for renewable energy projects.
But auditors, who raised alarms that the UN agency had concentrated its loans on one person, wrote in a report that Kendrick’s companies had admitted to using the UN’s loans to pay off other loans.
‘A large portion of the $15 million deposit had been used to discharge its pre-existing debts and liabilities,’ the auditors report said.
Daisy Kendrick (pictured) and her company We Are The Oceans (WATO) allegedly gave $3million to produce the pop song ‘Oceans’ performed by singer Joss Stone
Stone (pictured) was not paid and has said she thought it was a fundraising project
Grete Faremo (pictured left), who has resigned due to the scandal, and the fired Vanshelboim (pictured center) are seen in 2016 with Paolo Zampolli (pictured right), who connected the UN program with Kendrick and has claimed to have introduced former President Donald Trump to his wife Melania
Vanshelboim – who on his LinkedIn page describes himself as a ‘SERIAL OVERACHIEVER IN GLOBAL EXECUTIVE LEVEL MANAGEMENT’ had been placed on administrative leave because of the investigation back in May.
Faremo, executive director for the UN Office for Project Services, previously resigned in June.
‘Without knowing the full story, it happened on my watch,’ Faremo wrote in a letter to employees in May 2022. ‘I acknowledge my responsibility and have decided to step down.’
Faremo, a former justice minister of Norway, earlier told the newspaper: ‘I want to get to the bottom of what has happened, and rigorous investigative processes are under way. We know this much now: failures have occurred.’
Kendrick’s companies, which had agreed to return the millions lent by the UN for the sustainable energy projects, were therefore not able follow through and auditors said they expected the UN agency to lose $22 million.
Kendrick’s companies, which had agreed to return the millions lent by the UN for the sustainable energy projects, were therefore not able follow through and auditors said they expected the UN agency to lose $22 million
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric (pictured) said Vanshelboim has a right to appeal his firing but said the organization was ‘fully committed to ensuring criminal accountability for crimes that may involve UN personnel’
Former UN officials said in May of 2022 that the ties reveal the issues with top UN leaders who hold massive budgets with little oversight.
‘What do you call it when you believe you’re God?’ Jonas Svensson, a former employee of UNOPS told the newspaper. ‘Ambition and stupidity. All the way into the wall.’
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Vanshelboim has a right to appeal his firing but said the organization was ‘fully committed to ensuring criminal accountability for crimes that may involve UN personnel.’
He did not comment on whether the United Nations would pursue legal action against either of the Kendricks, saying he wouldn’t want to compromise the case or attempts to get the money back.
Paulo Zampolli, who introduced Kendrick to UN officials at the New York party, has his own U.N.-approved conservation group also called We Are the Oceans, or WATO, the same name as Kendrick’s company.
‘I was truly used,’ Zampolli said in 2022.
Zampolli, who introduced Kendrick to UN officials at the New York party, has his own U.N.-approved conservation group also called We Are the Oceans, or WATO, the same name as Kendrick’s company
Zampolli, who serves an ambassador for Dominica, approved of the decision made Thursday but said it could only be the beginning of an even larger scandal, asking: ‘Where is the money? Follow the money.’
UNOPS has declined to explain why it chose to invest $3million in Kendrick’s organization, which at the time was only a year old and had not obtained approval from the IRS for a tax exemption as a charity.
The London law firm Carter-Ruck, which is representing Kendrick and his daughter Kendrick, said in 2022 that their clients had done nothing wrong.
‘Our clients strongly believe in the projects they are running and in their ability to deliver these, and regret the fact that they appear to have become, through no fault of their own, the targets of a campaign seeking to harm their reputations,’ the law firm told the newspaper.
Kendrick’s lawyers said SHS Holdings ‘was never granted any money by UNOPS but simply borrowed money from UNOPS on commercial terms’, adding: ‘It is not a contractor of UNOPS as has sometimes been wrongly suggested and its relationship to UNOPS is simply one of borrower to lender.
Dujarric did not comment on whether the United Nations would pursue legal action against either of the Kendricks, saying he wouldn’t want to compromise the case or attempts to get the money back
‘The process whereby these agreements were concluded was entirely appropriate and legitimate, and UNOPS has never suggested otherwise.’
The lawyers added: ‘Contrary to what has been sometimes suggested, and as UNOPS itself has made clear in its press release on 17 April 2022 in relation to S3I ‘to date, no funds have been lost’ by UNOPS.
Kendrick’s lawyers said her organization had ‘delivered on all of its promises to the UN’ and that ‘the rates paid to all Wato’s participants were at all times legitimate and fair’.
They added: ‘Unops awarded a grant to Wato through an entirely legitimate process. Wato set out their proposal to Unops for music, gaming and social media campaigns for the oceans, which were considered and approved by Unops.
‘All of Wato’s activities, budgets and projects were also pre-approved by Unops, and the rates paid to all Wato’s participants were at all times legitimate and fair.’
The lawyers added that the pandemic had negatively impacted some S3I projects, adding: ‘SHS Holdings is in a restructuring process with Unops regarding its loans and this process is critical to ensure the commercial viability of all the projects SHS Holdings is committed to.’
‘The implementation of [the company’s] projects has been less swift than originally anticipated as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions, which could not possibly have been anticipated and over which SHS Holdings clearly had no control.’
The lawyers added: ‘In spite of these unforeseen and substantial challenges, SHS Holdings has already achieved a significant amount of progress and will continue to move forwards on all of these projects in order to ensure their full success… In all cases, SHS Holdings is confident that it will deliver all of its key targets for the benefit of all the parties and the local communities involved.’