Old scandals never go away. They just seem to ripple forward like stones skipped along the water with the same names popping up again and again.
What’s old is new and what’s new is old again.
Shortly after Hillary Clinton left the Obama administration, the State Department quietly took steps to purchase real estate in Nigeria from a firm whose parent company is owned by a major donor to the Clinton Foundation, records obtained by Fox News show.
On March 20, 2013, William P. Franklin, an “international realty specialist” at the State Department, emailed Mary E. Davis, an American diplomat stationed in Africa, instructing her to “put on Post letterhead” an “expression of interest” by the department in purchasing property at Eko Atlantic, a massive real estate development off the coast of Lagos. Franklin further instructed that the signed letter was to be “delivered to Ronald Chagoury.”
Overtures to real estate developers from State Department officials scouting locations for embassies, consulates and other diplomatic facilities would ordinarily not arouse interest. But in this case, the budding transaction – never completed, the department now says – raised eyebrows because Ronald Chagoury is the brother and business partner, in the Chagoury Group, of Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-born businessman whom federal records show has donated between $1 and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.
Indeed, Gilbert Chagoury’s friendship with the Clintons can be traced back to the Clinton presidency. In the mid-1990s, Chagoury donated nearly $500,000 to a voter-registration drive designed to help Democratic candidates, attended a White House dinner for premium donors, and met with high-ranking officials in the Clinton White House – including Susan Rice, now President Obama’s national security adviser – who were shaping U.S. policy toward Nigeria.
More recently, the Chagourys’ close ties to the Clintons generated headlines when a separate series of emails from 2009 – between Doug Band, an aide to former President Clinton and Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary Clinton – revealed the eagerness of the State Department to oblige a request for Chagoury to be granted access to senior officials working on Lebanon.
Four years later, the Lebanese billionaire is back in the news from the scandal-free Obama administration.
A Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire has resolved and two of his associates have agreed to resolve a federal investigation that they conspired to violate federal election laws by scheming to make illegal campaign contributions to U.S. presidential and congressional candidates, the Department of Justice announced today.
Gilbert Chagoury, 75, who presently resides in Paris, France, paid $1.8 million to resolve allegations that he, with the assistance of others, provided approximately $180,000 to individuals in the United States that was used to make contributions to four different federal political candidates in U.S. elections.
Relatedly, two Chagoury associates – Joseph Arsan, 68, also of Paris, and Toufic Joseph Baaklini, 58, of Washington, D.C. – agreed to resolve allegations that they violated campaign contribution laws by assisting Chagoury in his illegal contributions…
In a separate and unrelated matter, Ray LaHood, 75, who served as U.S. Secretary of Transportation from 2009 to 2013, paid a $40,000 fine to resolve a federal criminal investigation into LaHood’s conduct related to a $50,000 financial transaction between LaHood and Baaklini in June 2012.
LaHood, who at the time was suffering financial difficulties, admitted that in 2012 he accepted a $50,000 personal check from Baaklini – with the word “Loan” written in the check’s memo portion – and understood at the time that the money came from Chagoury. LaHood failed to disclose the $50,000 check on two government ethics forms as required because LaHood did not want to be associated with Chagoury. Later, LaHood also made misleading statements to FBI agents investigating Chagoury about the check and its source. As part of his non-prosecution agreement signed in December 2019, LaHood also agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation and repaid the $50,000 to Baaklini.
LaHood was Obama’s transportation secretary. That’s very nice of the FBI. Some people have their lives ruined for making “misleading statements” to the FBI. Others get a non-prosecution agreement to cooperate with the investigation.
Here’s a PBS story from a decade ago over in Africa.
In July 2004, police lay in wait at an airfield in the far northeastern corner of Nigeria. Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese businessman and one-time adviser to the late dictator Sani Abacha, was set to touch down in his private jet. Nuhu Ribadu, then the country’s top anti-corruption prosecutor, says that Chagoury was a kingpin in the corruption that defined Abacha’s regime.
“You couldn’t investigate corruption without looking at Chagoury,” Ribadu tells me in a recent interview in California.
Six years after Abacha’s death, Ribadu’s officers stood ready to take Chagoury down. Ribadu says that Chagoury made it possible for Abacha to steal billions of dollars and lined his own pockets in the process. The prosecutor says he indicted Chagoury and ordered his arrest for relatively minor violations related to Chagoury’s businesses so that he could later bring additional charges for his activities in the Abacha era…
Chagoury, along with his wife and three of his children, were guests at a the Clinton’s White House holiday dinner shortly after Chagoury gave nearly half a million dollars to a voter registration committee, Vote Now ’96, according to a report in The Washington Post. (Chagoury would have been barred from donating directly to the Clinton campaign because he is not a U.S. citizen.) Since then, Chagoury and Clinton have traveled together and seen each other socially.
“Every one knows I’m friends with the Clintons,” Chagoury says…
In 2000, Chagoury was convicted in Geneva, Switzerland, of laundering money and aiding a criminal organization in connection with the billions of dollars stolen from Nigeria during the Abacha years…
What’s old is new again.