“A British-Iraqi billionaire lent millions of dollars to Barack Obama's fundraiser (dual US-Syrian citizen Tony Rezko) just weeks before an imprudent land deal that has returned to haunt the presidential contender, an investigation by The Times discloses. The money transfer raises the question of whether funds from Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, helped Mr. Obama buy his mock Georgian mansion in Chicago.” -- The Times of London February 26, 2008
by Andrew Walden
The Auchi-Rezko-Obama connection came to public attention with federal marshals pounding on the door of Tony Rezko’s Wilmette Chicago mansion in the early morning of January 28, 2008. They hauled Rezko to jail after his bail was revoked for concealing a $3.5 million Auchi loan from the court. The Times outlines the story in two sentences. It should be of tremendous interest to the American public and the world.
But there is more to this story than run-of-the mill political corruption. Nadhmi Auchi is alleged to have a long affiliation with Iraqi Baathism and Saddam Hussein—which his attorneys deny. How close were they? According to a 1960 US Embassy report, Auchi was convicted along with Saddam by an Iraqi court for his part in a failed 1959 assassination attempt against then-Iraqi Prime Minister Qassim. For his crime, Auchi earned a sentence of “three years rigorous imprisonment.”
The US Embassy report is an interesting counterpoint to Auchi’s September, 2004 interview with the London Times in which he claims, “I left the Ba’ath party in 1962 and was jailed in Iraq when the party came to power in 1963….” What does “was jailed” mean? For those unaware of the 1960 US Embassy report, Auchi’s claim implies he was jailed by the Baathists when they came to power. But it might also mean he was still in jail from the 1960 sentence.
The UK Guardian, in an article still posted on their site, directly contradicts Auchi’s claim to have left Baath, writing:
Nadhmi Shakir Auchi was born in Baghdad on 11 June 1937. As a student he was involved in the campaign which culminated in the uprising of 1958 against British rule. After the Baathist coup in 1963, Auchi came into the open as a supporter of the pan-Arab party and built a career in the procurement department of the Iraqi Oil Ministry. Over a decade he built up a vast network of contacts within Europe and the Far East. In the mid-1970s this allowed him to set up his own business, working as an intermediary for Western companies wanting a piece of Iraq's lucrative oil action.
In Republic of Fear, Kanan Makiya points out that there were only 830 “active” members of Iraq’s Arab Baath Socialist Party in 1963. In The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movement of Iraq Hannah Batatu points out participants in the Qassim assassination were privileged within the 1960s Baathist hierarchy. Moreover there were two Baathist coups in 1963. February 8, 1963 against Qasim--and November 18, 1963 by Baathist Army officers against the Baathist militia. Saddam’s rise to power began in 1964. After insinuating his control throughout the security apparatus of the Party and State he would finally take full control 15 years later in 1979.
There are claims that a brother, a cousin, or two brothers of Auchi were killed by Saddam. This story is difficult to pin down but may refer to Saddam’s final 1979 coup which was accompanied with the videotaped purge and execution of 66 top Baathists in order to ensure the loyalty of the remainder. Auchi left Iraq about 1979.
Forty-three years after his conviction in the Qassim assassination attempt, Auchi was convicted of a different type of crime. A French court in 2003 convicted Auchi of taking kickbacks in the Elf-Aquitane bribery scandal. The Guardian –in an article Auchi’s lawyers take credit for forcing off the web under threat of litigation -- called the scandal: “the biggest fraud inquiry in Europe since the Second World War... Elf became a private bank for executives who spent £200 million on political favours, mistresses, jewelry, fine art, villas and apartments.” BBC described the case as exposing “a moral vacuum…at the heart of France.”
Auchi was given a 15-month suspended sentence and a £1.5m fine. A statement now posted on the UK Guardian website reads: “Mr Auchi denies any wrongdoing in relation to the Elf oil scandal and is appealing his conviction. He is also suing Elf for the damage caused to him.” The suit, unsurprisingly, is filed in a UK court.
The UK Guardian in 2001 also describes other Auchi investigations:
In the years before the Gulf War in 1991, Auchi's connections with his native country remained strong and he became the focus of investigation almost as soon as he left Iraq. In December 1980 he was the middle-man in a billion-dollar deal with the state-owned Italian naval dockyards which included the provision of four frigates and six corvettes to the Iraqi navy.
Two years later an Italian parliamentary inquiry investigated the payment of $23m in commission to Auchi. The report concluded that the activity of Auchi's financial empire was far in excess of anything you would expect from an intermediary in the sale of arms to Iraq.
In 1993 Auchi was named in the Italian Mani Pulite (Clean Hands) corruption investigations. Tuscan banker Pierfrancesco Battaglia said Auchi was the recipient of millions of dollars in commissions for his help in securing a deal to build a pipeline from Iraq to Saudi Arabia for a Franco-Italian consortium. Again Auchi denied any wrongdoing and the Italian investigation fizzled out.
Perhaps the most serious claims came in November 1996 in a report from the Belgian ambassador to Luxembourg, Baudouin de la Kethulle de Ryhove, who raised concerns about the Banque Continentale de Luxembourg, purchased by Auchi in 1982.
After numerous investigations, two criminal convictions and a three-year prison sentence, one might apply the phrase “two-time convicted criminal and ex-con.” But Auchi is now reputedly a billionaire--one of the richest men in Britain. Journalists worldwide rarely mention his name—much less his record.
Why? In addition to his French connections, Auchi is also a major political player in Britain. At the 1999 celebration of the 20th anniversary of Auchi’s company, General Mediterranean Holdings (GMH), British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave Auchi a painting of the British Houses of Parliament signed by 130 MPs including the heads of the Labor, Liberal-Democratic, and Conservative Parties. Auchi’s website shows him greeting such international figures as Syrian dictator Bashir Assad, former US Vice-President Al Gore, Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi and former US President Bill Clinton, husband of Obama’s Secretary of State.
Journalists digging into stories involving Auchi often find themselves peppered with threats of libel litigation from a London law firm known as Carter-Ruck. Auchi’s litigation threats have chased eight articles from the internet sites of the UK Guardian, Observer and New Statesman.
Sweden-based website Wikileaks has posted the eight articles but writes:
“The censorship of The New Statesman's political editor, Martin Bright, who was co-author for some of the Guardian and Observer articles, is particularly galling. In April Mr. Bright warned New Statesman readers about the censorship of the Guardian and Observer in an article on the Index on Censorship's annual Freedom of Expression Awards (one of which was won by Wikileaks). Then, in a bow to Kafka's The Trial, Mr. Bright's warning was in its turn censored by legal threats from Auchi.”
Wikileaks itself is now under legal attack by Auchi’s lawyers.
What is so stifling about English libel law? In the U.K., as Carter-Ruck explains on its own website:
“A libel claimant does not have to prove that the words are false or to prove that he has in fact suffered any loss. Damage is presumed.”
In a December, 2003, obituary, former C-R partner David Hooper wrote:
“The libel lawyer Peter Carter-Ruck, who died on Friday, had a chilling effect on the media. He was a chancer, out for the maximum fee. And he did for freedom of speech what the Boston Strangler did for door-to-door salesmen.”
Posted on the Carter-Ruck website, an article by C-R partner Nigel Tait outlines the limited legal bases for “prior restraint” in England but then explains that some publishers can be convinced to censor themselves by “the first two (sic) weapons of the Spanish Inquisition. Fear, surprise and ruthless efficiency.”
Perhaps hoping to inspire “fear and surprise” with “ruthless efficiency” Carter-Ruck demand letters—laden with misspellings and what appear to be cut-and-paste formulations--have been going out not only to large British newspapers, but also to American newspapers and both well-known and obscure bloggers.
Posted on April 23, 2008—in the midst of the US Presidential race--an article on Auchi’s Middle East Online website boasted of knocking six articles off of the Guardian and Observer websites. Bloggers began receiving Carter-Ruck letters demanding that allegedly defamatory comments be removed from their comments section. MEO displayed a sphinx-like image of Auchi. The caption: "Tracking even the search engines."
It worked. When the November election came and went, the American public barely knew Rezko and knew Auchi even less. Obama won.
Hawai`i Free Press received an emailed letter from Carter-Ruck February 10, 2009. It was followed by faxes and mailings. Then the phone calls started. A C-R staffer rang this writer’s cell phone at 1AM and again at 5AM one morning. The demand: “cease publishing these false and defamatory allegations about our client by forthwith removing them.” C-R also claims: “You should be aware that our client has lived and worked in England for over 25 years and that your article is likely to have been read by a substantial number of readers in England. Accordingly, in relation to publication of the article in England, it will be subject to English law and the jurisdiction of the court in England.”
The letter is labeled “Not for Publication”. Regardless, the letter is published at this link.
The letter asserts nine points which it calls “highly defamatory and false.” This is typical Carter-Ruck style. A C-R letter to The New Statesman contains ten pages of “It is untrue” --including 14 points denying this writer’s August 24, 2008 Accuracy In Media article titled, “Iraqi Billionaire Threatens Reporters Investigating Rezko Affair.” There are several such “Not for Publication” Carter-Ruck letters posted online by bloggers at TheRealBarackObama, RezkoWatch, AJacksonian, and NoQuarterUSA.
Looking at other Carter-Ruck letters, it appears that these claims are often recycled. Many of the nine points in the latest Carter-Ruck letter were not directly referenced in the original September 17, 2008 Hawai`i Free Press article, “Lehman Brothers: Obama’s Rezko-Auchi conflict of interest.”
In the public interest, this writer has researched each of the nine points. Just as Carter-Ruck appears to cut-and-paste its threat letters, responding writers can now use this information to cut-and-paste their response.
- 1) Carter-Ruck asserts: “It is untrue that our client is the largest private shareholder in BNP Paribas. Our client had a minority shareholding in Paribas when it was bought by BNP. As a result of the acquisition he then became a minority shareholder in BNP Paribas. This was after BNP had entered into the Oil-for-Food contract. Since the merger, our client sold his shareholding in the bank.”
C-R's assertion is repeated in less verbose form:
- 8) Carter-Ruck asserts: “As stated above, our client has sold his shareholding in BNP Paribas.”
The careful reader will note there is no flat statement that Auchi and his companies today own no shares of BNP Paribas.
Contradicting C-R's letter, the website of Auchi’s Luxembourg-based "Compagnie Internationale de Participations Bancaires en Financières SA" (CIPAF) boasts, “Until the merger of BNP and Paribas, the Cipaf group was one of the largest independent shareholders of Compagnie Financière de Paribas. Since the merger, it ranks amongst the topmost investors in the enlarged BNP Paribas, now a leading European banking group.”
Seeming to support C-R's claim of divestiture, the 2004 Annual Report of CIPAF states: “During the year the directors decided to divest the company of its holdings in BNP Paribas profitably, but continued to deal in options.” Likewise the 2004 Annual Report of Auchi’s holding company GMH asserts, “After many years, the Group has divested itself of all its shareholding in BNP Paribas, but continues to deal in options.”
So why does CIPAF now publicly describe itself--and by extension GMH—as “amongst the topmost investors in the enlarged BNP Paribas….” The GMH website, updated January 2, 2007, describes the activities of CIPAF and Paribas regarding the acquisition and subsequent sale of two Luxembourg banks but mentions nothing about any divestiture of BNP Paribas stock. There is no mention of BNP Paribas in the 2005 and 2006 annual reports of GMH and CIPAF. The 2007 and 2008 Annual Reports are not yet available online for either company.
Has CIPAF/GMH trading in the options market for BNP Paribas stock led to CIPAF again owning BNP Paribas stock? The “Wayback” Internet archive indicates that the CIPAF website was archived with an update on February 8, 2005--about the time the 2004 Annual Report was issued. The site was next archived with an update November 29, 2007.
So readers are left with a non-denial denial from Carter-Ruck, contradictory statements from the four year old Annual Reports and the more recent websites, and the on-line absence of the 2007 and 2008 Annual Reports from GMH and CIPAF.
As for the connection between BNP-Paribas and Oil-for-Food here is what the New York Times reported April 30, 2003:
One of the largest private shareholders in BNP Paribas, the French bank that holds more than $13 billion in Iraqi oil funds administered through the United Nation's oil-for-food program, is an Iraqi-born businessman who once helped to arm Iraq in the 1980's and brokered business deals with Saddam Hussein's government, according to public records and interviews.
The involvement of the businessman, the British billionaire Nadhmi Auchi, raises questions about how carefully the United Nations has vetted the bank in its continuing role as repository of oil-for-food funds. …
A United Nations spokesman said it was now impossible to determine why Iraq insisted on BNP Paribas, other than that the Iraqis had ''confidence and trust'' in the bank.
A February 24, 2005 Newsmax article explains:
“According to John A. Shaw, the former deputy undersecretary for international technology security, Auchi not only helped Saddam prior to the war but also worked closely with the French bank BNP Paribas after combat ended, in order to acquire contracts inside Iraq….
“BNP Paribas has been linked to the UN Oil-for-Food scandal, with potentially billions of dollars missing, or misused by Saddam through the French bank.”
The article soon disappeared from Newsmax. Then, on March 20, 2006, publisher Christopher Ruddy was photographed with Auchi at a London event sponsored by Auchi’s “Anglo-Arab Organization.” Speaking at the event, Ruddy criticized US conduct of the Iraq war for “entering international conflicts without the international support and the participation of many allies.” Ruddy continued, “The world is scared of the American power more than admiring its value; and the Democratic ideas that is spread by force, pressure and occupation of other nations….”
Since the meeting Newsmax coverage has shifted. A January 11, 2007 Newsmax column by Ruddy was titled, “Why I oppose the troop surge.” A 2008 Newsmax article describes Auchi as buying out Rezko’s interest in a Chicago development, "as negative information about Rezko came to light….” The 2008 article is now being used as a favorable media reference by Carter-Ruck attorneys. In contrast, Shaw’s 2008 writings are banished to Wikileaks.
Writing to Hawai`i Free Press, Auchi’s lawyers continue:
“We refer you to the United Nations document ‘Report on the Manipulation of the Oil-for-Food Food Programme’ which contains no mention of our client or any company of his.”
Contrary to the lawyers’ claim, chapter four of the UN report is largely about the activities of BNP Paribas—during a period for which annual reports for Auchi’s GMH and CIPAF state he was a major private stockholder of the mostly-government-owned bank. The UN report, written by a UN commission headed by former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, (p461) details possible “kickbacks” to the Iraqi government and points out that: “BNP itself became an instrument for the payment of millions of dollars in illegal surcharges while doing little to detect or prevent such payments.”
And who got those “illegal payments”? In January 2004, Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada published a list of 270 Oil for Food beneficiaries including UN leaders, journalists, anti-war activists, and officials of the French, Russian, and Chinese governments. The list is published on line by The Middle East Media Research Institute.
Nile Gardiner PhD of the Heritage Foundation explains: “The 500-page report paints an ugly tableau of bribery, kickbacks, corruption, and fraud on a global scale—without a doubt the biggest financial scandal in modern history. It amply demonstrates how the Iraqi dictator generously rewarded those who supported the lifting of U.N. sanctions on Iraq and who paid lip-service to his barbaric regime. Oil-for-Food became a shameless political charade through which Saddam Hussein attempted to manipulate decision-making at the U.N. Security Council by buying the support of influential figures in Russia and France.”
- 2) Carter-Ruck asserts: “It is untrue that our client is a former ‘high-ranking official in Iraq’s Oil Ministry’. He was the director of planning and development of one of Iraq’s refineries before leaving this position in 1972, after which our client did not work for the government in any capacity whatsoever.”
The NationMaster Encyclopedia says: “Auchi graduated in Economics and Political Science from the Mustansiriyah University, Baghdad in 1967. He also worked with the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, becoming Director of Planning and Development.” This information is also repeated in the Zawya directory of Middle Eastern and North African Business. For that matter is not a “director of planning and development of one of Iraq’s refineries” also a “high ranking official in Iraq’s Oil Ministry”? By the time Iraq was liberated from Saddam’s dictatorship, the country had only three refineries: Baiji, Daura, and Basra.
Carter-Ruck’s assertion that Auchi “did not work for the government in any capacity whatsoever” is also contradicted by numerous reports of his dealings with Saddam’s regime in the 1980s and 1990s.
In a June 2, 2004 article titled, “Saddam’s secret money-laundering trail” UPI investigative journalist Lucy Komisar explains:
Saddam Hussein began constructing his offshore operation in 1968 in Switzerland, aware that the country’s bank secrecy made it a prime place to organize the movement of illicit funds and the purchase of arms. That year, 11 years before his coup, Saddam sent his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim Hasan Al-Tikriti to Geneva to construct the network to launder secret commissions charged on sales of Iraqi crude oil.
The system would also be used for kickbacks on purchase from Western arms dealers. Liechtenstein, which Swiss bankers and money-managers often use to handle dubious clients, was used to ensure even more impenetrable secrecy: real names of company and account owners would be hidden from law enforcers.
The key Iraqis in the operation were Said Rahim Hussein Al-Mahdi (shown here) and Nadhmi Auchi. Al-Mahdi was sent to Lugano because his father-in-law, Talaak El Naboulsi, an Egyptian soldier and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was then working in Geneva for Barzan. (Barzan is now in U.S. custody.)
- 3) Carter-Ruck asserts: “It is untrue that our client was ‘a procurer of arms for Saddam Hussein’s government during the Iraq war.’ Our client is not involved in the arms trade as alleged or at all in any country. Indeed, our client never met or spoke to Saddam Hussein and was not involved in any of Saddam Hussein’s operations.”
The Hawai`i Free Press sentence in question actually reads: “Nadhmi Auchi is an Iraqi whose Baathist ties go back to 1959. A formerly high-ranking official in Iraq’s Oil Ministry, Auchi left Iraq at the end of the 1970s. His wealth then grew exponentially as a procurer of arms for Saddam Hussein’s government during the Iran–Iraq war.”
The denials of Auchi’s involvement “in any of Saddam Hussein’s operations” are contradicted by the February 29, 1960 US embassy report showing that Auchi was convicted of procuring arms for Saddam’s first major operation. After taking power Saddam made a propaganda movie glorifying his role in the attack on Qassim as the touchstone of his revolutionary legitimacy. Perhaps Auchi’s lawyers think they can now make the inconvenient al-Ayyam al-tawila movie ‘disappear’ from history?
“The Politics of Sleaze”, a November 16, 2003 article which the UK Guardian has been bludgeoned into removing, also points to an early arms-procurement role for Auchi:
In 1959 Auchi admitted to playing a minor part in the drama. The conspirators had collected a machine gun from his house before the attack, he said, but he had not used the weapon and knew nothing of what was being planned.
The New York Times April 30, 2003 describes allegations of more recent Auchi involvement with Saddam Hussein’s operations:
In 1996, according to European news accounts, Belgium's ambassador to Luxembourg charged that Banque Continentale du Luxembourg, a bank that Mr. Auchi and Paribas jointly controlled until 1994, had handled personal accounts for Mr. Hussein.
Mr. Auchi sold his stake in the bank to Paribas in 1994, and Paribas sold off its stake in 1996. (Auchi’s lawyer) Mr. Corker said that Banque Continentale contested the Belgian ambassador's charge. Banque Continentale declined to comment.
Earlier this month, Mr. Auchi was arrested and released on bail in London pending a court hearing next week on fraud charges involving the French oil giant TotalFinaElf. French prosecutors have accused Mr. Auchi of helping channel bribes to Total's executives, a charge Mr. Corker denies.
Mr. Auchi was born in Iraq in 1937 and lived there until 1981, his lawyer said. He became a British citizen in 1981. Mr. Auchi sold Italian naval vessels to Mr. Hussein's government in the early 1980's.
In 1993, an Italian banker told Italian investigators that in 1987, Mr. Auchi had helped an engineering concern secure a contract for an oil pipeline from Iraq to Saudi Arabia by bribing members of the Hussein government, according to a transcript of a police interrogation. A translated copy of that interview was furnished to The New York Times by Kreindler & Kreindler, a New York law firm hoping to recover financial damages for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The banker, Pierfrancesco Pacini Battaglia, told Italian investigators that Mr. Auchi was ''one of the most important intermediaries in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries.''
Mr. Auchi's lawyer said his client never paid bribes to Iraqi officials involved with the Saudi pipeline project.
Carter-Ruck then proceeds to the Obama-Rezko-Auchi connections:
- 4) Carter-Ruck asserts: “The $3.5 million loan to which you refer in your article made in 2007 was part of a commercial transaction, made at a commercial rate of interest and secured by the personal pledge of Mr. Rezko and specified assets. The payment was made to an account of Mr. Rezko’s attorneys. Our client is not responsible for Mr. Rezko’s subsequent detention. Mr. Rezko appears to have had his bail revoked because of his failure to properly disclose the loan.”
- 5) Carter-Ruck also asserts: “Our client was not involved in any way with the then-Senator Obama’s property purchases. Our client has never conducted any business with the then-Senator Obama of any nature nor has he contributed to any campaign fund of his. The loan of $3.5m in 2005 was part of a commercial transaction, made at a commercial rate of interest and secured by the personal pledge of Mr. Rezko and specified assets. It is not a matter for our client if Mr. Rezko chose to raise money for the then-Senator Obama or to whom he donated money.”
Carter-Ruck’s assertions confirm the key point--that Auchi made a $3.5 million loan to Rezko.
The Times of London February 1, 2008 reports “…state documents in Illinois recording that Fintrade Services, a Panamanian company, lent money to Mr. Obama’s fundraiser in May 2005. Fintrade’s directors include Ibtisam Auchi, the name of Mr. Auchi’s wife. Mr. Auchi’s spokespeople declined to respond to a question about whether he was linked to this business.”
According to exhibits presented in Rezko’s trial (available on-line via Wikileaks), the interest rate on the March 30, 2007 loan was 12% and the loan was ‘forgiven’ by Auchi’s General Mediterranean Holdings on July 24, 2007. It was part of a total of $26,414,297.92 in GMH loans to Rezko which were ‘forgiven’ in exchange for ‘investment units’ of Heritage Development Partners LLC, which controls the 62 acre “Riverside Park” site slated for residential, retail, and office development on Roosevelt Rd. in the Chicago Loop.
How closely tied are FINTRADE and GMH? According to a Rezko trial exhibit, the ‘forgiven’ loan came from GMH. The ‘units’ were transferred to FINTRADE. The same man, Mohammed al-Miqdadi, signed for both GMH and FINTRADE.
The April 14, 2008 Chicago Sun-Times described sworn testimony about Obama attending a 2004 Rezko-Auchi reception:
When Tony Rezko held a reception at his home for Iraqi-born billionaire Nadhmi Auchi on April 3, 2004, White House hopeful Barack Obama and his wife were also there, Stuart Levine testified just now at Rezko's trial.
Auchi is the man who provided Rezko a $3.5 million loan that Rezko did not disclose to the court -- resulting in his January arrest.
"Mr. and Mrs. Obama were there, were they not?" Rezko lawyer Joseph Duffy asked.
"Yes, sir," Levine said.
Obama and his aides have said Obama has no recollection of ever meeting Auchi.…The reception was aimed at getting Auchi interested in investing in Illinois, Levine said.
A February 28, 2008 Sun-Times article describes another part of Auchi’s 2004 Chicago visit:
On a spring day in 2004, Nadhmi Auchi, one of the world's richest men, flew in to Midway Airport on a private jet. Met by a welcoming party that included Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (there at the request of the Blagojevich administration) and businessman Tony Rezko, Auchi was brought to a downtown hotel where he was the guest of honor at a reception hosted by Blagojevich.
The Iraqi-born billionaire -- who lives in London -- had come to Chicago on business. He would go on to invest nearly $170 million in a prime piece of vacant land in the South Loop -- 62 acres along the Chicago River that Rezko wanted to develop….
Auchi has sought to distance himself from Rezko -- but still plans to develop the 62 acres at Roosevelt and Clark. Asked about the project, Pepper referred questions to a Feb. 12 story posted on the Web site Newsmax.com.
"As negative information about Rezko came to light last year, GMH moved to buy out Rezko's interest" in the project, Newsmax reported. "In July 2007, Rezko sold the majority of his interest."
That is how Newsmax reports on Auchi since Ruddy’s 2005-2006 “conversion.” But the office of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald sees it differently. In their Motion for Issuance for an Arrest Warrant against Rezko, prosecutors argue:
“(a)ccording to Northern Trust bank records, on April 4, 2007, a bank account, (the ‘MMDA account’) held at Northern trust by the law firm of Freeborn and Peters (Freeborn) received an incoming wire transfer of approximately $3,499,471 from a bank in Beirut, Lebanon. The originator of the wire transfer was identified as General Mediterranean Holdings.…”
Prosecutors consume the next 10 pages detailing the various persons, many with criminal ties, to whom Rezko transferred the money. They then write:
“Of the remaining money from the $3.5 million wire from Beirut, Lebanon, nearly all of it went to Rezko-related lawyers.”
Prosecutors also detail another GMH wire transfer for $200,000 on July 25, 2007 which they indicate “was also apparently for Rezko’s legal fees….”
Newsmax somehow missed all of this.
- 6) Carter-Ruck asserts: “Our client flatly and categorically denies any wrong doing in relation to matters that led to his conviction in France. Our client has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights for a ruling that the trial resulting in his conviction breached his fundamental right to a fair trial. He is also suing Elf Oil for dragging him unwittingly into the scandal.”
C-R thus confirms Auchi is a convicted criminal in the eyes of French law. The astute reader will note that challenging the fairness of a trial is different than proclaiming innocence. The challenge to Elf also implies an admission that Auchi was dragged “into the scandal” albeit “unwittingly”.
Here’s how the UK Independent May 4, 2008 describes it:
A legal battle between the two erupted after Auchi, an Iraqi-born British citizen, received a 15-month suspended sentence and a £1.5m fine after being convicted of corruption. French investigators found that he had received $2m (£1m) in illegal commissions in the Elf Aquitaine oil scandal.
Several senior executives of the company were jailed over their part in the affair. The investigators claimed that Auchi had paid bribes to Elf. As a result of the ruling, Total took legal action against him in France.
Then C-R closes by reiterating several of the points it has already made:
- 7) Carter-Ruck asserts: “With regard to the article by Nick Cohen of the Guardian, following legal action taken by our client against Guardian News and Media Limited also agreed to pay a substantial sum in relation to our client’s costs. In particular:
- (a) Carter-Ruck asserts: “as stated above, it is untrue that our client had any involvement with Saddam Hussein.”
If so, then Auchi’s lawyers would logically have to claim:
- The 1960 US Embassy report: “untrue.”
- Numerous reports that Auchi was involved in the purchase of Italian frigates for the Iraqi Navy during the Iran-Iraq war: “untrue.”
- Money laundering: “untrue.”
Who is to be believed? A twice-convicted criminal and ex-con whose lawyers shout “untrue” and attempt to silence those who say otherwise-- or the dozens of investigative journalists, European and American government officials, and UN investigators who have dug into aspects of Auchi’s story.
- (b) Carter-Ruck asserts: “it is untrue that our client was involved in bribing ‘fabulously corrupt leaders of postwar Italy.’”
In 2003, in one of the articles forced off the Internet by Carter-Ruck’s threats, Nick Cohen of the UK Guardian wrote:
“Allow me to introduce you to Nadhmi Auchi. He was charged in the 1950s with being an accomplice of Saddam Hussein, when the future tyrant was acquiring his taste for blood. He was investigated in the 1980s for his part in alleged bribes to the fabulously corrupt leaders of post-war Italy.”
Under threat of litigation, the Guardian admitted to “inaccuracies” in the articles. But is it an “inaccuracy” to acknowledge that the twice-convicted criminal and ex-con Auchi was indeed “investigated in the 1980s”?
Journalist Lucy Komisar details the contents of “a confidential 2001 report by Kroll, the international investigative agency…commissioned by Kuwait after the Gulf War in an attempt to locate Iraqi assets it could claim as compensation.”
The Kroll report also dealt with Nadhmi Auchi, reporting the Italian intelligence view that he was a “high-level Iraqi defense procurement and intelligence agent.”
After Roger Watson in 1987 became Saddam’s financial consultant, he also became an adviser to Auchi’s International Company of Banking and Financial Participations (CIPAF). According to official Italian documents, Auchi used Panama to launder kickbacks for two contracts for the Iraqi military. An Italian parliamentary report in 1987 said that one of them, Dowal, set up by Watson, was used to collect $23 million in hidden commissions on Baghdad’s purchase of warships manufactured by the Italian shipyard, Cantieri Navali Riuniti.
In another case, the Operation “Clean Hands” (Mani Pulite) investigation in Italy revealed in 1993 that Auchi received about $40 million in hidden commissions to facilitate approval of a Franco-Italian engineering project to construct a pipeline from Iraq to Saudi Arabia. Italian banker Pierfrancesco Pacini Battaglia declared to investigators that he had received instructions to transfer these commissions to accounts in Panama established in the names of Iraqi officials.
Auchi’s spokesman condemned any allegations of wrongdoing as “outrageous.”
Its not just Saddam but Gaddafi too…
- (c) Carter-Ruck asserts: “it is untrue that our client, or any entity of his, held money for Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddafi.”
The UK Guardian, in one of its deleted articles wrote:
“Allow me to introduce you to Nadhmi Auchi. He was charged in the 1950s with being an accomplice of Saddam Hussein, when the future tyrant was acquiring his taste for blood. He was investigated in the 1980s for his part in alleged bribes to the fabulously corrupt leaders of post-war Italy. In the 1990s, the Belgium Ambassador to Luxembourg claimed that Auchi’s bank held money Saddam and Colonel Gaddafi had stolen from their luckless peoples. In 2002, officers from the Serious Fraud Squad raided the offices of one of Auchi’s drug companies as part of an investigation of what is alleged to be the biggest swindle ever of the (British National Health Service). With allegations, albeit unproven, like these hanging over him, wouldn’t you think that British MPs would have the sense to stay away?”
The New York Times April 30, 2003 reports:
“In 1996, according to European news accounts, Belgium's ambassador to Luxembourg charged that Banque Continentale du Luxembourg, a bank that Mr. Auchi and Paribas jointly controlled until 1994, had handled personal accounts for Mr. Hussein.
Mr. Auchi sold his stake in the bank to Paribas in 1994, and Paribas sold off its stake in 1996. Mr. Corker said that Banque Continentale contested the Belgian ambassador's charge. Banque Continentale declined to comment.
And finally, the C-R world tour leads right back to Obama’s doorstep where readers find yet another denial.
- 9) Carter-Ruck asserts: “As stated, the implication that our client was involved in any way with Senator Obama’s purchase of a mansion in Chicago is entirely false.”
Here is what The Times of London February 26, 2008 reported:
A British-Iraqi billionaire lent millions of dollars to Barack Obama's fundraiser just weeks before an imprudent land deal that has returned to haunt the presidential contender, an investigation by The Times discloses.
The money transfer raises the question of whether funds from Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, helped Mr Obama buy his mock Georgian mansion in Chicago.
A company related to Mr Auchi, who has a conviction for corruption in France, registered the loan to Mr Obama's bagman Antoin "Tony" Rezko on May 23 2005. Mr Auchi says the loan, through the Panamanian company Fintrade Services SA, was for $3.5 million.
Three weeks later, Mr Obama bought a house on the city's South Side while Mr Rezko's wife bought the garden plot next door from the same seller on the same day, June 15.…
Mrs Rezko’s purchase and sale of the land to Mr Obama raises many unanswered questions.
It is unclear how Mrs Rezko could have afforded the down payment of $125,000 and a $500,000 mortgage for the original $625,000 purchase of the garden plot at 5050 South Greenwood Ave.
In a sworn statement a year later, Mrs Rezko said she got by on a salary of $37,000 and had $35,000 assets. Mr Rezko told a court he had "no income, negative cash flow, no liquid assets, no unencumbered assets [and] is significantly in arrears on many of his obligations."
Asked if she used money from her husband to buy the land next to Mr Obama's house, she said: "I can't answer these questions, I'm sorry."
Asked how long she and her husband had known Mr Auchi, she replied: "I will not be able to answer this question."
Mr Auchi's lawyer, asked whether the Fintrade Services loan was used to buy the land which became Mr Obama's garden, stated: "No, not as far as my client is aware."
Although the Carter-Ruck letter did not touch on the issue, Auchi is also alleged to have involvement with several questionable business deals in the new Iraq. A 146 page report to the Pentagon Inspector General posted on Wikileaks is described by Washington Times investigative journalist Bill Gertz who writes:
A 2004 Pentagon report obtained by The Washington Times identified Auchi as a global arms dealer and Iraqi billionaire "who, behind the facade of legitimate business, served as Saddam Hussein's principle international financial manipulator and bag man."
The report to the Pentagon inspector general stated that "significant and credible evidence was developed that a conspiracy was organized by Nadhmi Auchi to offer bribes to 'fix' the awarding of cellular licensing contracts covering three geographic areas of Iraq" under the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority.
"Additionally, significant and credible evidence has been developed that Nadhmi Auchi has engaged in unlawful activities working closely with Iraqi intelligence operatives to:
· "Bribe foreign governments and individuals prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom to turn opinion against the American-led mission to remove Saddam Hussein.
· "Arrange for significant theft from the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program to smuggle weapons and dual-use technology into Iraq ....
· "Organize an elaborate scheme to take over and control the post-war cellular phone system in Iraq."
The report suggests Auchi has ties to British intelligence through a 2002 association with a former British intelligence chief, and that British telecommunications companies may have used Auchi to gain access to cellular phone markets in post-invasion Iraq.
Auchi has denied accusations over the cell phone contract. But that is not the only time Auchi's name comes up in relation to a questionable deal in the new Iraq.
Human Events reports that Auchi’s General Mediterranean Holdings financed a 250 megawatt power plant in the Kurdish town of Chamchamal, Iraq along with Rezko and Iraq's former Minister of Electricity (and Chicago resident), Aiham Alsammarae.
Returning in 2003 to post-Saddam Iraq, Alsammarae had been made Minister of Electricity under the occupation government of Paul Bremer. Alsammarae escaped “the Chicago way” from the Green Zone in December, 2006 after being held for four months in relation to a $2 billion Iraqi reconstruction corruption case. He returned to his Chicago mansion.
Writing March 3, 2008 in Human Events’ John Batchelor reports on the Alsammarae-Obama-Rezko connection:
“…in April 2005, one month before Mr. Alsammarae left his post, his Ministry of Electricity signed a contract for $50 million with Companion Security to provide training to Iraqis to guard electrical plants by flying them to Illinois for classes.
“Companion Security was headed by a former Chicago policeman with a troubled history, Daniel T. Frawley, in partnership with Mr. Rezko and in association with Daniel Mahru, the lawyer for the original contract and Mr. Rezko's former business partner. In April 2006, Mr. Frawley entered negotiations with Governor Rod Blagojevich's staff to lease a military facility in Illinois to be a training camp. In August 2006, Mr. Frawley started negotiations with Mr. Obama's U.S. Senate staff to complete the contract….
“The timeline of Companion discussions in 2006 is important to note: April 2006 Frawley speaks to governor's office; August 2006 Frawley speaks to senator's office; October 2006 indictment of Rezko revealed; October 2006 Rezko arrested upon return from Syria; October 2006 Alsammarae convicted in Baghdad and makes his first escape attempt; December 2006 Alsammarae escapes from Baghdad. …
“(In 2004) Mr. Auchi traveled by private aircraft to Midway Airport in Chicago and then to a fete at the Four Season Hotel, where he met with his business partner in Chicago real estate, Mr. Rezko, as well as with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Also present that night, according to a fresh report by James Bone and Dominic Kennedy of the London Times, was State Senator Barack Obama, who had recently won the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat….”
Jay Stewart of the Better Government Assn. in Chicago told the LA Times: “Everybody in this town knew that Tony Rezko was headed for trouble. When he got indicted, there wasn't a single insider who was surprised. It was viewed as a long time coming. . . .Why would you be having anything to do with Tony Rezko, particularly if you're planning to run for president?”
How much could a US President be influenced by his dealings with Rezko and his associates?
In April, 2004, as Islamists fought Marines in Fallujah—some of the toughest fighting of the Iraq war—pro-war politicians were jumping overboard. Anti-war Democrats momentarily saw the political tide turn in their direction. And Barack Obama? After opposing the war, he picked this moment to tell an interviewer April 5, 2004:
“I’ve never said that troops should be withdrawn. What I’ve said is that we’ve got to make sure that we secure and execute the rebuilding and reconstruction process effectively and properly and I don’t think we should have an artificial deadline when to do that. What’s important is that we have a long-term plan in process and short-term security strategy.”
Could Obama’s sudden and counter-intuitive change in position be related to his 2004 meeting with Auchi or the investments by Rezko, Auchi and Alsammarae in the new Iraq? How much does Obama value the gifts he has received from the now-convicted-felon Rezko?
To answer these questions, consider what was on Obama’s mind as he was leaving Chicago in the midst of two wars and an economic crisis to head for Washington just prior to being sworn in as President of the United States.
Obama told reporters: "I gotta say I choked up a little bit leaving my house today."