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Bill Clinton Got $31.1M For Help With Deal

From the Clinton-endorsing New York Times:

Former President Bill Clinton with Sir Tom Hunter, left, and Frank Giustra, major donors to Mr. Clinton’s charitable foundation.

After Mining Deal, Financier Donated to Clinton Charity

January 31, 2008

After Mining Deal, Financier Donated to Clinton Charity

By JO BECKER and DON VAN NATTA Jr.

Late on Sept. 6, 2005, a private plane carrying the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra touched down in Almaty, a ruggedly picturesque city in southeast Kazakhstan. Several hundred miles to the west a fortune awaited: highly coveted deposits of uranium that could fuel nuclear reactors around the world. And Mr. Giustra was in hot pursuit of an exclusive deal to tap them.

Unlike more established competitors, Mr. Giustra was a newcomer to uranium mining in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic. But what his fledgling company lacked in experience, it made up for in connections. Accompanying Mr. Giustra on his luxuriously appointed MD-87 jet that day was a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton.

Upon landing on the first stop of a three-country philanthropic tour, the two men were whisked off to share a sumptuous midnight banquet with Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, whose 19-year stranglehold on the country has all but quashed political dissent.

Mr. Nazarbayev walked away from the table with a propaganda coup, after Mr. Clinton expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader’s bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy. Mr. Clinton’s public declaration undercut both American foreign policy and sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, Mr. Clinton’s wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Within two days, corporate records show that Mr. Giustra also came up a winner when his company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom.

The monster deal stunned the mining industry, turning an unknown shell company into one of the world’s largest uranium producers in a transaction ultimately worth tens of millions of dollars to Mr. Giustra, analysts said.

Just months after the Kazakh pact was finalized, Mr. Clinton’s charitable foundation received its own windfall: a $31.3 million donation from Mr. Giustra that had remained a secret until he acknowledged it last month. The gift, combined with Mr. Giustra’s more recent and public pledge to give the William J. Clinton Foundation an additional $100 million, secured Mr. Giustra a place in Mr. Clinton’s inner circle, an exclusive club of wealthy entrepreneurs in which friendship with the former president has its privileges

The two men were introduced in June 2005 at a fund-raiser for tsunami victims at Mr. Giustra’s Vancouver home and hit it off right away…

In August 2005, records show, the company sent an engineering consultant to Kazakhstan to assess the uranium properties. Less than four weeks later, Mr. Giustra arrived with Mr. Clinton…

Mr. Clinton’s Kazakhstan visit, the only one of his post-presidency, appears to have been arranged hastily. The United States Embassy got last-minute notice that the president would be making “a private visit,” said a State Department official, who said he was not authorized to speak on the record.

The publicly stated reason for the visit was to announce a Clinton Foundation agreement that enabled the government to buy discounted AIDS drugs. But during a news conference, Mr. Clinton wandered into delicate territory by commending Mr. Nazarbayev for “opening up the social and political life of your country.”

In a statement Kazakhstan would highlight in news releases, Mr. Clinton declared that he hoped it would achieve a top objective: leading the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which would confer legitimacy on Mr. Nazarbayev’s government…

Mr. Clinton’s praise was odd, given that the United States did not support Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid. (Late last year, Kazakhstan finally won the chance to lead the security organization for one year, despite concerns raised by the Bush administration.) Moreover, Mr. Clinton’s wife, who sits on a Congressional commission with oversight of such matters, had also voiced skepticism.

Eleven months before Mr. Clinton’s statement, Mrs. Clinton co-signed a commission letter to the State Department that sounded “alarm bells” about the prospect that Kazakhstan might head the group. The letter stated that Kazakhstan’s bid “would not be acceptable,” citing “serious corruption,” canceled elections and government control of the news media.

In a written statement to The Times, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman said the former president saw “no contradiction” between his statements in Kazakhstan and the position of Mrs. Clinton, who said through a spokeswoman, “Senator Clinton’s position on Kazakhstan remains unchanged.”

Noting that the former president also met with opposition leaders in Almaty, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman said he was only “seeking to suggest that a commitment to political openness and to fair elections would reflect well on Kazakhstan’s efforts to chair the O.S.C.E.”

But Robert Herman, who worked for the State Department in the Clinton administration and is now at Freedom House, a human rights group, said the former president’s statement amounted to an endorsement of Kazakhstan’s readiness to lead the group, a position he called “patently absurd.”

“He was either going off his brief or he was sadly mistaken,” Mr. Herman said. “There was nothing in the record to suggest that they really wanted to move forward on democratic reform.”

Indeed, in December 2005, Mr. Nazarbayev won another election, which the security organization itself said was marred by an “atmosphere of intimidation” and “ballot-box stuffing.”

After Mr. Nazarbayev won with 91 percent of the vote, Mr. Clinton sent his congratulations. “Recognizing that your work has received an excellent grade is one of the most important rewards in life,” Mr. Clinton wrote in a letter released by the Kazakh embassy. Last September, just weeks after Kazakhstan held an election that once again failed to meet international standards, Mr. Clinton honored Mr. Nazarbayev by inviting him to his annual philanthropic conference.

Within 48 hours of Mr. Clinton’s departure from Almaty on Sept. 7, Mr. Giustra got his deal. UrAsia signed two memorandums of understanding that paved the way for the company to become partners with Kazatomprom in three mines.

The cost to UrAsia was more than $450 million, money the company did not have in hand and had only weeks to come up with. The transaction was finalized in November, after UrAsia raised the money through the largest initial public offering in the history of Canada’s Venture Exchange…

Longtime market watchers were confounded. Kazatomprom’s choice of UrAsia was a “mystery,” said Gene Clark, the chief executive of Trade Tech, a uranium industry newsletter.

“UrAsia was able to jump-start the whole process somehow,” Mr. Clark said. The company became a “major uranium producer when it didn’t even exist before.” ..

Records show that Mr. Giustra donated the $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation in the months that followed in 2006, but neither he nor a spokesman for Mr. Clinton would say exactly when.

In September 2006, Mr. Giustra co-produced a gala 60th birthday for Mr. Clinton that featured stars like Jon Bon Jovi and raised about $21 million for the Clinton Foundation.

In February 2007, a company called Uranium One agreed to pay $3.1 billion to acquire UrAsia. Mr. Giustra, a director and major shareholder in UrAsia, would be paid $7.05 per share for a company that just two years earlier was trading at 10 cents per share.

That same month, Mr. Dzhakishev, the Kazatomprom chief, said he traveled to Chappaqua, N.Y., to meet with Mr. Clinton at his home. Mr. Dzhakishev said Mr. Giustra arranged the three-hour meeting. Mr. Dzhakishev said he wanted to discuss Kazakhstan’s intention — not publicly known at the time — to buy a 10 percent stake in Westinghouse, a United States supplier of nuclear technology…

Too bad The Times reporters chose to bury the basic details under their (all too typical) avalanche of mind-numbing verbosity.

But it would appear to be that Mr. Clinton sold his influence to an unknown person from a disreputable part of the world for (at least) a $31.3 million dollar “contribution.”

Shocking, is it not?

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, January 31st, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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