State Department Inspector General To Probe Alleged Cover-Up In Albania

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June 24, 2008 6:19 p.m.

While the U.S. Ambassador to Albania denied allegations of wrongdoing today from his office in Tirana, back in Washington the State Department’s Inspector General has opened an investigation.

“We’ve opened an investigation into this matter at the request of the department and we are coordinating with other agencies,” Tom Burgess, a spokesman for the State Department IG, said in a phone interview with TPMmuckraker.

State Department officials have known for months about the allegations that arms dealer AEY and its 22-year-old president may have tried to pass off cartons of illegal Chinese-made ammunition to fulfill a $300 million U.S. government contract supplying the Afghan Army.

But yesterday’s disclosure that the the U.S. Ambassador in Tirana, John Withers, may have known about it and then concealed that knowledge from lawmakers on Capitol Hill apparently came as a surprise to the State Department.

According to the AP:

In Washington on Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the allegation would be investigated, but that he knew of no evidence to support it.

Speaking to reporters, Casey said the State Department has asked its inspector general “to go and look at these charges and conduct a thorough, fair and transparent investigation of these allegations.”

He said, “These are very serious allegations.”

But Casey also said, “We certainly don’t have any information that would support or substantiate these allegations which are being made against a career Foreign Service officer” with 24 years of distinguished experience.

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