Nigerian-Lebanese billionaire Gilbert Chagoury continues to be a thorn in the side of Hillary Clinton.
The multi-million dollar Clinton Foundation donor was denied entry into the U.S. last year because of his ties to a Lebanese organization that has allegedly given money to the terrorist group Hezbollah, The Los Angeles Times reports.
The news, which was based on interviews and government documents, comes weeks after emails surfaced showing that in 2009, a Clinton Foundation adviser asked Hillary Clinton’s State Department deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, for a favor on Chagoury’s behalf.
The request for favors is evidence that the Clinton Foundation operates as a massive pay-for-play scheme, the Clintons’ critics have claimed.
According to The Times, the State Department denied Chagoury’s visitor’s visa after he applied for one at the U.S. embassy in Paris last summer. The State Department made its determination based on a 2013 FBI intelligence report which cited sources claiming that Chagoury had given money to Michel Aoun, a Lebanese politician who was suspected of “facilitating fundraising for Hezbollah.”
That was the second time Chagoury had been denied entry into the U.S. In Jan. 2010, his private jet was grounded at an airport in New Jersey. Chagoury’s lawyers eventually procured an apology from the Department of Homeland Security for the incident.
Aoun, who founded the Free Patriotic Movement party and, like Chagoury, is a Lebanese Christian, allied with Hezbollah in 2006. The U.S. has designated the Iran-backed Shiite group as a terrorist organization because of its role in the 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.
The Times cited a 2007 State Department cable published by Wikileaks showing that a Lebanese government official told Jeffrey Feltman, then the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, that Chagoury was “known to have funded” Aoun.
The cable shows that the Lebanese official suggested to Feltman that the U.S. “deliver to Chagoury a strong message about the possibility of financial sanctions and travel bans against those who undermine Lebanon’s legitimate institutions.”
Feltman is mentioned in the heavily-scrutinized 2009 email exchange between Band and Abedin.
“We need Gilbert chagoury to speak to the substance person re lebanon. As you known, he’s key guy there and to us,” Band wrote to Abedin in the email, which was released by Judicial Watch.
Abedin told Band, who reportedly invited Chagoury to his wedding, that Feltman was the proper contact. Feltman had officially left his post as ambassador to Lebanon but would take the position of assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs in Aug. 2009.
“This is very important,” Band wrote back to Abedin, urging her to call Feltman on Chagoury’s behalf.
Chagoury, who pledged $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative in 2009, told The Times that he never made contact with Feltman.
The Clinton campaign denied that the Band-Abedin email was evidence of a quid pro quo. According to a CNN report from earlier this month, the Clinton campaign said on background that Chagoury sought contact with a U.S. official in charge of Lebanese affairs in order to discuss issues related to elections that would be held months later.
It is not clear what election issues Chagoury wanted to discuss. Aoun was up for re-election that year.
Chagoury and Aoun have reportedly fallen out in recent years. Chagoury now supports one of his political opponents, The Times reports.
Chagoury’s ties to the Clintons go back to the mid-1990s, the same era during which he was a close associate of Nigerian dictator Sani Abache.
Chagoury, who operates a development and oil empire, was invited to and attended a Dec. 21, 1996 White House dinner after he gave $460,000 to a voter registration group called Vote Now 96. As a foreign citizen, Chagoury was prohibited from contributing directly to politicians. But his generous contribution to Vote Now 96 earned him a White House invite at the behest of the Democratic National Committee, according to reports at the time.
Several years later, in 2000, Chagoury was convicted in a Swiss court of laundering billions of dollars on behalf of Abacha, who died in 1998.
That conviction, which was handed down in absentia, did not end the Clinton-Chagoury relationship, however. According to The Times, Chagoury helped arrange a speech for Bill Clinton in St. Lucia in 2003. Clinton was paid $100,000 to appear at the event, which was hosted by a company called Financial Innovations Inc.
Financial Innovations Inc. was owned by Mark Weiner, a former DNC official and longtime political operative who died last month. According to a 1997 article from the Washington Post, Weiner was the official responsible for soliciting Chagoury’s contributions to Vote Now 96.
Chagoury also attended Bill Clinton’s 60th birthday bash, which was held in Sept. 2006. Chagoury told The Times that he last saw Hillary Clinton in 2006. He also denied having any ties to Hezbollah.
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