Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive Marc Rich continues to pay big
January 17, 2016 |
Photo: Getty Images; AP
Fifteen years ago this month, on Jan. 20, 2001, his last day in office, Bill Clinton issued a pardon for international fugitive Marc Rich. It would become perhaps the most condemned official act of Clinton’s political career. A New York Times editorial called it “a shocking abuse of presidential power.” The usually Clinton-friendly New Republic noted it “is often mentioned as Exhibit A of Clintonian sliminess.”
Congressman Barney Frank added, “It was a real betrayal by Bill Clinton of all who had been strongly supportive of him to do something this unjustified. It was contemptuous.”
Marc Rich was wanted for a list of charges going back decades. He had traded illegally with America’s enemies including Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, where he bought about $200 million worth of oil while revolutionaries allied with Khomeini held 53 American hostages in 1979.
Rich made a large part of his wealth, approximately $2 billion between 1979 and 1994, selling oil to the apartheid regime in South Africa when it faced a UN embargo. He did deals with Khadafy’s Libya, Milosevic’s Yugoslavia, Kim Il Sung’s North Korea, Communist dictatorships in Cuba and the Soviet Union itself. Little surprise that he was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.
Facing prosecution by Rudy Giuliani in 1983, Rich fled to Switzerland and lived in exile.Modal TriggerMarc Rich traded illegally with Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini (from left) and made deals with Libya’s Moammar Khadafy, Yogoslavia’s Slobodan Milošević and North Korea’s Kim Il Sung — earning him a spot on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.Photo: Getty Images; EPA; AP; Getty Images
What bothered so many was that Clinton’s clemency to Rich reeked of payoff. In the run-up to the presidential pardon, the financier’s ex-wife Denise had donated $450,000 to the fledgling Clinton Library and “over $1 million to Democratic campaigns in the Clinton era.”
Judge Abner Mikva, a counsel in the Clinton White House and mentor to President Obama, noted that even Obama “was very, very dismayed by the Marc Rich pardon and the basis on which it appears to have been granted.”
But does the story end there? Is it possible the payoffs continued after he left office?Modal TriggerDenise Rich (left,) Marc’s ex-wife, donated $450,000 to the Clinton Library in the run-up to the presidential pardon.Photo: AP
The stench of the scandal in early 2001 sent people scurrying. Days after it was revealed that a senior UBS executive named Pierre de Weck had written a letter to Clinton “to support his request for a pardon,” the Swiss banking giant canceled its discussions with Clinton about a lucrative post-White House speech, apparently “worried that a large speaking fee would create an appearance of impropriety.”
Even Bill Clinton eventually admitted that the pardon had been “terrible politics.” “It wasn’t worth the damage to my reputation,” he said.
But while the pardon was a political mistake, it certainly was not a financial one. In the years following the scandal, the flow of funds from those connected to Marc Rich or the pardon scandal have continued to the Clintons.
Rich’s business partners, lawyers, advisers and friends have showered millions of dollars on the Clintons in the decade and a half following the scandal.
Rich died in 2013. But his business partners, lawyers, advisers and friends have showered millions of dollars on the Clintons in the decade and a half following the scandal.
Nigerian businessman Gilbert Chagoury is well known as a close ally and business associate of Rich. The Nigerian media declared in 1999 that the “Gilbert Chagoury-Marc Rich alliance remains a formidable foe.” They sold oil on international markets together. In 2000, Chagoury was convicted in Geneva of money laundering and aiding a criminal organization in connection with the billions of dollars stolen from Nigeria during the reign of dictator Gen. Sani Abacha.
As part of a plea deal, the conviction was later expunged.
Chagoury has been very generous to the Clintons in the years following the Rich pardon. He has organized an event at which Bill was paid $100,000 to speak (in 2003), donated millions to the Clinton Foundation and in 2009 pledged a cool $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative. The Chagourys were also active in Hillary’s 2008 presidential bid. Michel Chaghouri, a relative in Los Angeles, was a bundler and served on her campaign staff. Numerous other relatives gave the maximum $4,600 each to her campaign.Modal TriggerGilbert Chagoury, Nigerian businessman and close ally of RichPhoto: Getty Images
In return, Bill has lavished praised on Chagoury over the years. In 2005, Bill was the keynote speaker when Chagoury received the “Pride of Heritage Award” from the Lebanese community.
In 2009, CGI gave Chagoury’s company an award for sustainable development. In 2013, Bill showed up in Nigeria for a public ceremony involving one of Chagoury’s projects. When Bill Clinton had his 60th birthday party, Chagoury was an invited guest. Chagoury also attended the wedding of Bill’s longtime aide, Doug Band.
Then there’s Russian investor Sergei Kurzin. He worked for Marc Rich in the 1990s, traveling around Russia looking for suitable investment opportunities in the crumbled former Soviet Union.
An engineer by training, Kurzin has been involved in lucrative deals in Kazakhstan and other countries, including the lucrative Uranium One deal that involved Bill Clinton and Frank Giustra.
Russia bought 20 percent of all uranium production capacity in the US, a deal that needed to be signed off on by the State Department when it was headed by Hillary Clinton. While the deal was going through, Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 to give a speech in Moscow, paid for by a Russian investment bank promoting the uranium deal.
Kurzin, meanwhile, donated $1 million to the Clinton Foundation.
The London-based Reuben Brothers have made a fortune thanks in part to their commodities firm Trans World Metals. According to the World Bank, they founded that firm with money from Marc Rich.
Photo: Post photo compositeAnd they have confirmed that they had business dealings with Rich. The Reuben Brothers, through their own Reuben Foundation, have been enthusiastic supporters of the Clintons. They co-hosted a star-studded gala with the Clinton Foundation in London dubbed the Millennium Network. They have also directly donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Clinton Foundation.
Beth Dozoretz, a longtime Democratic Party donor, was a friend to Denise Rich, and according to congressional investigations, played a “key role” in helping secure the Marc Rich pardon. On Jan. 10, 2001, Dozoretz received a phone call from President Bill Clinton informing her that he was planning to pardon international fugitive Marc Rich. Dozoretz informed her ski partner on that trip, Denise Rich, of the great news.Modal TriggerBeth Dozoretz, a close friend of Denise Rich, refused to testify against herself about Clinton’s controversial pardon of Rich.Photo: Reuters
In the years since the pardon was granted, Dozoretz has served the Clintons closely: as the finance co-chair of Hillary’s 2008 campaign and as a senior State Department official during Hillary’s tenure. She has supported the super PAC Ready for Hillary and the Hillary Clinton campaign. Her husband, Ronald, has sent $25,000 to $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation.Modal TriggerRich died in 2013, and Clinton eventually admitted the pardon was “terrible politics” and “wasn’t worth the damage to my reputation.”Photo: Getty Images
Even the smaller phantoms of the Marc Rich scandal have popped up, opening their wallets for the Clintons. Gershon Kekst, who was Marc Rich’s longtime p.r. man in the United States, has contributed more than $10,000 to Hillary’s campaigns since the pardon. Clyde Meltzer was named in the original 1983 DOJ indictment against Marc Rich and Pincus Green. Meltzer pleaded guilty rather than flee the country like Rich and Green. In the 1990s he rejoined Rich, working for the fugitive’s new firm, Glencore.
According to Federal Election Commission records, Meltzer has a slim history of giving money to candidates, giving only $1,000 to a congressional candidate. But in 2007 he gave the maximum allowed to the Hillary Clinton campaign. Three of Marc Rich’s attorneys, Peter Kadzik, Robert Fink and Jack Quinn, also a former counsel at the Clinton White House, have donated to Hillary’s campaigns. Quinn has given between $25,000 and $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
These Rich connections are, of course, based on disclosed donations. But we now know that the Clinton Foundation has failed to disclose more than 1,000 donors, despite its written agreement with the Obama transition team that it would maintain complete transparency.
Many of those donations came through a Clinton Foundation project in Canada, which is heavily laden with donations from the natural resources and commodities industries. Kurzin, for example, has given via this route. Are there more Marc Rich-connected dollars that have flowed to the Clintons? Will they ever provide the full disclosure they have so often promised?
It cannot be mere coincidence that in the years of fundraising for the Clinton Foundation, one of the industries that has emerged as a big backer of the Clintons is the mining and commodities industry, where Marc Rich made his fortune.
When it comes to Washington scandals, news usually sends political figures scurrying for cover — leading them to avoid those connected to the scandal. Apparently not so with the Clintons. Are you connected to the disgraced Marc Rich and the terrible pardon? It’s OK, as long as the check clears.
Peter Schweizer is the author of “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.”