Thursday, September 05, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) US congressmen tied to illegal $3.4m Mugabe lobby
Anti-sanctions plot ... Gideon Gono and President Robert Mugabe met US officials
08/08/2013 00:00:00
by Agencies
COMMENT - Also see here: (CHICAGO TRIBUNE) 2 Chicago men charged in effort to lift economic sanctions against Zimbabwe leaders

And here: (ROLL CALL) FBI Ties Chicago Representatives to Zimbabwe Lobbying - MrK

TWO Democratic lawmakers from Illinois worked to help lift US economic sanctions against Zimbabwe after being targeted by an illegal $3.4 million lobbying scheme, according to FBI testimony unsealed in federal court.

COMMENT - Lobbying is not illegal. Taking money to pass legislation is no longer illegal. - MrK

Representatives Danny K Davis and Bobby L Rush both of the Chicago area, were identified by Chicago media as “U.S. Representative A” and “U.S. Representative B” in the case, given that they were the only Illinois Democrats to have sponsored a failed 2010 resolution to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe cited in court documents.

The sanctions, in place for almost a decade, were imposed to punish alleged abuses of power by President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party.

Two other Chicagoians, Prince Asiel Ben Israel and C. Gregory Turner, are charged with accepting millions in illegal payments from Zimbabwe officials to lobby U.S. lawmakers to remove sanctions against country. Ben Israel appeared in a federal courtroom in Chicago Tuesday.

The complaint against them says the men met with Mugabe, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono and other officials "multiple times" in the U.S. and Africa, and allegedly agreed to lobby U.S. federal and state officials on Zimbabwe's behalf in exchange for the promised payments, which the defendants apparently weren't able to collect in full.

It's not illegal for public officials to meet with sanctioned Zimbabweans, but individuals cannot provide lobbying services to those subjected to U.S. sanctions, prosecutors said.

Representatives Davis and Rush were not named in the affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Steven D. Noldin, dated July 16.

According to the affidavit, U.S. Representative A sent a letter on official Congressional letterhead to Mugabe in August 2009 requesting a meeting, saying that he had been briefed by Ben Israel, “who continues to ‘inform and sensitive African American Leadership on not only the plight of the people of Zimbabwe, but on the economic and political direction of the African Continent.’”

On October 17, 2009, U.S. Representative A wrote a letter to Mugabe thanking him for “the most positive and productive meeting in New York” and confirming the best dates to travel to Zimbabwe for a follow-up.
“Know that I am fully committed to working toward the removal of the sanctions placed upon Zimbabwe,” the letter said.

U.S. Representative B, meanwhile, was part of an official U.S. congressional delegation to Africa in August 2009, and his involvement was shared with Zimbabwe officials.

Both U.S. Representatives A and B are identified in the affidavit as lawmakers who represent districts in Chicago, but it was not immediately clear from the testimony which lawmaker corresponded with which letter.
According to an official statement provided, it appeared that Rush aligned himself with Representative B.

“I had been scheduled to travel to Africa as part of an official delegation in 2009. If my itinerary had been shared with anyone connected with Zimbabwe or Zimbabwe officials, I had no knowledge of it,” said Rush in the statement emailed by his press secretary.

“Zimbabwe was not on my itinerary which included the following countries: Ghana, South Africa, Angola, Liberia, and an overnight stay in Morocco. Due to sudden illness I did not travel with the delegation. This is the first I’ve heard of this.

“I have not been questioned and I am not a cooperating witness. Also, I have not been notified by the U.S. Department of Justice that I am representative B. I have not retained private counsel and see no need to do so at this time.”

Davis’ spokesman Ira Cohen said the congressman has either retained, or will retain, legal counsel in preparation for whatever next steps might need to be taken in connection with the allegations.

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