Saturday, August 30, 2008

Is Nadhmi Auchi a Skeleton in Senator Obama's Closet?

Iraqi-British Billionaire Nadhmi Auchi (above)

"Auchi gave at least $10.5 million to Obama fundraiser Antoin 'Tony' Rezko, including a payment of $3.5 million that coincided with Mr. Obama's purchase in 2005 of a $1.65 million Chicago house, the London Times reported Tuesday [see Tuesday, 2-26 article here and a timeline here]. The newspaper said the timing of the payment and the house purchase, along with the purchase of land next door by Mr. Rezko's wife Rita from the same seller, raise questions about whether Auchi helped buy the house...

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."--Bill Gertz, Washington Times (2-29-08)

"[I]n April 2004 [Nadhmi Auchi attended] a dinner party in his honor at [Tony] Rezko's Chicago home. Mr. Obama also attended, and according to one guest, toasted Mr. Auchi. Later that year, Mr. Auchi came under criminal investigation as part of a U.S. probe of the corrupt issuance of cell-phone licenses in Iraq.

In May 2004, the Pentagon's inspector general's office cited 'significant and credible evidence' of involvement by Mr. Auchi's companies in the Oil for Food scandal, and in illicit smuggling of weapons to Saddam Hussein's regime."---WSJ (8-30-08)

Today, The Wall Street Journal (8-30-08) again brings up earlier allegations about the possible connections between Senator Obama and the Iraqi-born billionaire Nadhimi Auchi. The article, by John Fund, is titled "Obama Should Come Clean On Ayers, Rezko And the Iraqi Billionaire."

But Senator Obama seems to be benefiting from libel lawsuits coming from Auchi's British lawyers. It will be interesting to see if the Iraqi-British Billionaire Nadhmi Auchi tries to sue The Wall Street Journal, since Men's News Daily (8-26-08) reports:

Why aren’t the American media investigating the role of British billionaire businessman Nadhmi Auchi in supplying loans to Barack Obama fundraiser Tony Rezko? Some point to media bias, but there is another factor. Working for Auchi, who was born in Iraq, attorneys from London law firm Carter-Ruck have for several months been flooding American and British newspapers and websites with letters demanding removal of material they deem “defamatory” to their client.

...U.S. media outlets are historically strong defenders of press freedoms. But there has been near-total silence about the UK-based legal threats to public discussion of the Rezko affair. While Auchi’s interference may explain part of the media’s lack of interest, the attitude of the New York Times and New York Review of Books goes a long way towards explaining the rest.

If elected President, Obama will be required to swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Will Senator Obama now join in co-sponsoring S-2977, the Free Speech Protection Act of 2008, and call upon his fellow Democrats to bring the bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote? If not will Obama explain why the Free Speech Protection Act is not necessary to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution?”

Will reporters covering the campaign ask Obama whether, if elected, he would approve a request for U.S. residency from Auchi?

Are the media now cooperating in their own silencing? The attitude of the New York Times does not bode well. [Read the entire article.]

Senator Obama's fund-raiser Tony Rezko went to prison because he failed to disclose a 3.5 million payment from the Iraqi-British tycoon in violation of the terms of his bail. [Rezko documents detailing his arrest and loan filing.]

In February, Bill Gertz of The Washington Times (2-29-08) wrote:

Auchi gave at least $10.5 million to Obama fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, including a payment of $3.5 million that coincided with Mr. Obama's purchase in 2005 of a $1.65 million Chicago house, the London Times reported Tuesday [Tuesday article here]. The newspaper said the timing of the payment and the house purchase, along with the purchase of land next door by Mr. Rezko's wife Rita from the same seller, raise questions about whether Auchi helped buy the house...

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."

..."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.

An article in the LA Times (7-7-04) explains that a May 2004 Pentagon Report, which the above article seems to quote, was produced by John A. “Jack” Shaw.

The LA Times (7-7-04) writes:

A senior Defense Department official [Shaw] conducted unauthorized investigations of Iraq reconstruction efforts and used their results to push for lucrative contracts for friends and their business clients, according to current and former Pentagon officials and documents.

...The inspector general’s office – which investigates waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon – has turned over its inquiry into Shaw’s actions to the FBI to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, the sources said.

...Shaw justified his investigations under a special agreement with the Pentagon inspector general, Joseph E. Schmitz. The August agreement created a temporary office headed by Shaw called the International Armament and Technology Trade Directorate. Its mission was to cooperate with the inspector general on issues related to the transfer of sensitive U.S. technologies or arms to foreign countries.

Shaw frequently cited the agreement in his dealings with reporters and the military, telling them it allowed him to “wear an IG hat” to conduct investigations. In a recent letter to the inspector general, he said the agreement gave him “broad investigatory authority.”

That contention is the subject of dispute, however. The agreement states that Shaw “may recommend” that the inspector general initiate audits, evaluations, investigations and inquiries, but it does not appear to give him investigative powers.

“Jack Shaw was never authorized to do any kind of investigation or auditing on his own,” said one source close to Schmitz. “The agreement was not for that. He’s trying to cram more authority into that agreement than it gives him.”

...Last summer, Shaw was visited by Richard E. Powers, a longtime friend and lobbyist. Powers was representing SSA Marine, a Seattle-based port operations company that had won a controversial limited-bid contract in the early days of the war to manage the troubled port.

He also was representing a small business owned by Alaskan natives called Nana Pacific. Under federal regulations, small companies owned by Alaskan Native Americans can bypass the normal process and receive unlimited, no-bid contracts.

...Even after the Pentagon canceled the agreement that Shaw had used to justify his probe, he unilaterally continued the investigation, Pentagon sources said.

On May 11 [2004], Shaw delivered his report, which concluded that there was “serious, credible evidence of criminal wrongdoing by U.S. government employees pertaining to taking official acts in exchange for bribes.”

He acknowledged that the report “directly conflicts” with the December report by the inspector general, which he dismissed as “worthless.”

Shaw’s report, which The [LA] Times has reviewed, claims evidence of a conspiracy to take over Iraq’s cellphone service led by Nadhmi Auchi, a British businessman who has been accused of links to Hussein and who was convicted last year in a French court in an unrelated kickback scheme. Auchi maintains his innocence and is appealing.

Auchi, according to the report, paid bribes through a series of surrogates to win the three cellphone licenses and gain control of Iraq’s cellular system.

A spokesman for Auchi denied Shaw’s claims. He acknowledged that Auchi has an indirect, minor stake in Orascom, one of the cellphone operators. He denied any ownership interest in the other phone companies.
[Read the entire article.]

A follow-up LA Times (12-11-04) article notes:

A senior Defense official placed under investigation by the FBI on allegations that he tried to steer Iraqi reconstruction contracts toward friends has been removed from office, Pentagon officials confirmed Friday.

John A. “Jack” Shaw, the Pentagon’s deputy undersecretary for international technology security, was ordered to leave after refusing to sign a letter of resignation, the officials said. His last day was Friday.

“He was asked to discontinue his service,” a senior Pentagon official said.

Yet today, The WSJ (8-30-08) writes:

Then there's the house that Mr. Obama bought in 2005 in cooperation with Tony Rezko, his friend and campaign fund-raiser -- a move the candidate concedes was "boneheaded." Rezko was convicted in June of 16 counts of corruption. (Mr. Obama was not implicated in Rezko's crimes.)

Rezko's trial raised a host of questions. Was Mr. Obama able to save $300,000 on the asking price of his house because Rezko's wife paid full price for the adjoining lot? How did Mrs. Rezko make a $125,000 down payment and obtain a $500,000 mortgage when financial records shown at the Rezko trial indicate she had a salary of only $37,000 and assets of $35,000? Records show her husband also had few assets at the time.

Last April, the London Times revealed that Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi-born billionaire living in London, had loaned Mr. Rezko $3.5 million three weeks before the day the sale of the house and lot closed in June 2005. Mr. Auchi's office notes he was a business partner of Rezko but says he had "no involvement in or knowledge of" the property sale. But in April 2004 he did attend a dinner party in his honor at Rezko's Chicago home. Mr. Obama also attended, and according to one guest, toasted Mr. Auchi. Later that year, Mr. Auchi came under criminal investigation as part of a U.S. probe of the corrupt issuance of cell-phone licenses in Iraq.

In May 2004, the Pentagon's inspector general's office cited "significant and credible evidence" of involvement by Mr. Auchi's companies in the Oil for Food scandal, and in illicit smuggling of weapons to Saddam Hussein's regime. Because of the criminal probe, Mr. Auchi's travel visa to the U.S. was revoked in August 2004, even as Mr. Auchi denied all the allegations. According to prosecutors, in November 2005 Rezko was able to get two government officials from Illinois to appeal to the State Department to get the visa restored. Asked if anyone in his office was involved in such an appeal, Mr. Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times last March, "not that I know of." FOIA requests to the State Department for any documents haven't been responded to for months.

After long delays, Mr. Obama sat with the editorial boards of the Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune in March to answer their questions about his connection to Rezko. He had no recollection of ever meeting Mr. Auchi. He also said he didn't understand a lot about house buying, and gave vague answers to other questions. Since then, he has avoided any further discussion of the Rezko matter. [See full text]

I think that if there were no substance to the claims about a connection between Senator Obama and Auchi, Senator Obama would not be afraid to talk to the Chicago papers.

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