Rezko, Auchi and Obama
In 2003, Nick Cohen at the 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. In the 1990s, the Belgium Ambassador to Luxembourg claimed that Auchi's bank held money Saddam and Colonel Gadaffi 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 NHS. With allegations, albeit unproven, like these hanging over him, wouldn't you think that British MPs would have the sense to stay away?
Forget the British MPs. Tony Rezko didn't have the sense to stay away from Nadhmi Auchi. And now The Times reports that the "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."
The gist of the Times' story is that the Rezkos were broke at the time the Chicago property developer's wife bought a garden lot for full price just as Barack Obama was sold the house adjacent at a $300,000 discount. Obama later expanded his property by purchasing part of the garden lot from the Rezkos at $104,500 when it was appraised at $40,500.
Asked if she [Mrs Rezko] 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."
Because both the Rezko garden and Obama house purchases were made on the same day the suggestion in the Times' story is that they were essentially one transaction and that Nadhmi Auchi anted up for Rezko. Bloomberg describes how the sale took place.
Rezko's wife, Rita, also an Obama donor, bought the adjoining plot in Hyde Park from the couple, Fredric Wondisford and Sally Radovick, for the $625,000 asking price, the same day that Obama bought the house for $300,000 less than the asking price. Antoin Rezko was under federal investigation at the time. ...
Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama's campaign ... said Obama, 46, toured the property with Rezko for 15 to 30 minutes at some point before the purchase. Burton said Obama wanted Rezko's opinion of the property because Rezko was a real-estate developer in the area.... the sellers had "stipulated that the closing dates for the two properties were to be the same."
According to the Times, court records showed that Auchi virtually owned Rezko.
According to court documents, Mr Rezko's lawyer said his client had "longstanding indebtedness" to Mr Auchi's GMH. By June 2007 he owed it $27.9 million. Under a Loan Forgiveness Agreement described in court, Mr Auchi lent Mr Rezko $3.5 million in April 2005 and $11 million in September 2005, as well as the $3.5 million transferred in April 2007.
That agreement provided for the outstanding loans to be "forgiven" in return for a stake in the 62-acre Riverside Park development.
A company related to Mr Auchi, who has a conviction for corruption in France, loaned Tony Rezko $3.5 million on on May 23 2005 through the Panamanian company Fintrade Services SA. Three weeks later Rezko and Obama simultaneously bought the properties.
Both Mr Auchi and Mr Obama say they have no memory of meeting each other. But, according to a source, the two may have had a brief encounter at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago where Mr Auchi’s visit was being honoured with a dinner attended by the Governor when Mr Obama, coincidentally in the hotel, dropped in.
An aide to Mr Obama said he did attend an event at the Four Seasons at which Mr Rezko was present but does not remember meeting Mr Auchi. "He shook a lot of hands and met a lot of people," the aide said. "We do not remember individual people."
Prosecutors say that, after Mr Auchi was unable to enter the United States in 2005, Mr Rezko approached the US State Department to get him a visa and apparently asked "certain Illinois government officials to do the same." Mr Obama denies he was approached. Mr Auchi's lawyer has emphasised to The Times that it would be entirely false to imply that money had been lent by GMH to Mr Rezko in return for Mr Rezko seeking to assist Mr Auchi to obtain a visa. The two men's relationship, the lawyer stressed, was a business one.
Auchi was barred from entering the US in 2005 after having been convicted for fraud in France as an undesirable alien.
Cohen in his 2003 Guardian article described Auchi as "the thirteenth-richest man in Britain, and he has been able to collect British politicians the way other people collect stamps." Auchi was as gold-plated as they came. Wikipedia notes:
He was Vice-Chair of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University between 1996 and 2000. ... Nadhmi Auchi was honoured in 2003 by the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George with the honour and dignity of Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Francis I in recognition of his major contributions to inter-church and inter-faith dialogue. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II granted him his Coat of Arms in 2004. In the same year the President of the Republic of Lebanon, His Excellency General Emile Lahoud, awarded Mr Auchi with the First Grade of the Lebanese Order of Merit having already appointed him as a Commander of the National Order of the Cedar in 2000. He was also awarded the Ponitifical Order of St. Sylvester Pope and Martyr by John Paul II in 2004.
Whatever path took Auchi to Tony Rezko's doorstep must have been an interesting one indeed.