Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Friends of Bill Include Tycoons of African Oil

Africa Intelligence (subscription required) points out that some of the biggest contributors to Bill Clinton's foundation made their money screwing Africans out of their oil wealth. Gilbert Chagoury, for example, gave between $1 million and $5 million, making him one of the 50 biggest contributors to the foundation. Chagoury made his money as a chief oil contract negotiator (that is, as a bag-man) for Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. Abacha was the president of Nigeria during most of Bill Clinton's administration. He garnered international opprobrium for murdering--ahem, executing--activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, and died in office as a multi-billionaire. Chagoury, however, maintained profitable relations with subsequent Nigerian leaders, despite being under investigation in France and Switzerland. He has continued to funnel contributions to democratic candidates, and in 2005 Bill Clinton personally awarded him the Ray R. Irani award from the Lebanese American Foundation, calling him a "personal friend" and "citizen of the world." The Wall Street Journal notes that:
Swiss and other European authorities froze a number of bank accounts, including some related to Mr. Chagoury, as part of an investigation by the Nigerian government and others about whether billions of dollars had been improperly taken out of the country during the Abacha regime, according to news reports and a 2001 British court decision in Abacha-related litigation. Mr. Chagoury later agreed to return funds, estimated to be as much as $300 million, to the Nigerian government in exchange for indemnity from possible charges and to unfreeze his accounts, according to the British court decision.

Another big-time contributor is Lukas Lundin, the CEO of Lundin Petroleum, the only Western oil company operating in Sudan. In late 2003, Human Rights Watch wrote this about the oil companies operating in Sudan, and specifically in the concession developed by Lundin:
The means by which the Sudanese government chose to protect the oil companies were draconian and arbitrary: it expelled rural people from their land and livelihood, killed their family members, and robbed and burned their property, because these people lived in areas where oil was found-and were presumed on grounds of their ethnic origin to be opposed to the government of Sudan exploiting that oil. Those it did not expel on the first or second wave were left economically insecure and terrified of another raid. The government not only failed to compensate and provide adequate substitute shelter for the displaced, it actively hindered agencies that tried to reach the displaced with emergency relief.
Human Rights Watch concluded that the participation of the oil companies in the oil concessions amounted to an "inappropriate corporate presence."

The AI article mentions several other Africa oil and mineral companies that gave lesser amounts to the foundation, such as African Rainbow Minerals Ltd, owned by magnate Patrice Motsepe, Lakshmi W. Mittal of ArcelorMittal, Lazare Kaplan, De Beers Marine, BMCE Bank, Veolia Environment, and others.

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