On Aug. 17, The News reported on a story that appeared in The New York Times indicating that up to $1 billion in local money and international aid had been stolen or lost in Bosnia. Indeed, some news organizations throughout the country even reported that all of the $1 billion allegedly lost or stolen was international aid -- some of it from the pocketbooks of U.S. taxpayers. These reports are false.
As deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department, I believe it is important for readers to understand that the U.S. government monitors carefully and continuously how our taxpayer dollars are spent overseas. We know and follow where this money goes, and we believe it is a sound investment in promoting a Bosnia that will not return to civil strife and again endanger our security interests in the Balkans.
I refer in particular to the correction published by The New York Times on Aug. 20, which states: "But the vast majority of the money was either stolen from Bosnian public funds or lost through Bosnian officials' failure to collect taxes, either through corruption or mismanagement." While The Times went on to specify that the amount of foreign assistance potentially lost in Bosnia is not $1 billion but rather around $20 million in a failed bank, we have not been able to verify that latter figure, either.
The United States has less than $1 million deposited in that bank, and we fully expect to recover the full amount through litigation or attachment of the bank's assets. The bottom line is that U.S. tax dollars have not been stolen or lost in Bosnia.
JAMES B. FOLEY