AFRICANGLOBE – Two Chicago based businessmen have been slapped with federal charges by the US government, for “illegally” lobbying on behalf of The Republic of Zimbabwe for the lifting of targeted restrictive sanctions.
The charges were revealed on Tuesday by federal prosecutors, who say the accused, Prince Asiel Ben Israel, 72, and C. Gregory Turner, 71, tried to persuade unnamed US legislators to oppose the sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe.
It is alleged that the pair agreed to do this in exchange for a promise of $3.4 million.
According to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office in Chicago, the men allegedly met with President Mugabe, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono and other officials “multiple times” in the US and Africa, and allegedly agreed to lobby US officials on Zimbabwe’s behalf.
They are accused of having violated the US International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which, if found guilty, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
No US legislators or government officials have yet been accused of wrongdoing, but according to the press release, the investigation is ongoing.
Ben Israel, who used to live in Africa and is described as a “consultant” on American trade relations with Africa, appeared in a federal courtroom on Tuesday.
His co-accused Turner, an “expert” in mining and finance with a residential property in Harare, is understood to be living in Israel. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Prosecutors have stated that the accused conducted public relations, political consulting and lobbying efforts on the people of Zimbabw’e behalf and had in late 2008 signed a “Consulting Agreement” that called for an initial payment of $90,000 and three subsequent equal installments of $1,105,000.
The defendants allegedly arranged for Ben Israel to travel to South Africa with two Illinois lawmakers — referred to as “Illinois State Senator A” and “Illinois State Representative A” in the complaint — in early December 2008. Travel records show the two lawmakers traveled to Israel, but did not return as scheduled and extended their overseas stay.
Political analyst Clifford Mashiri says this case could uncover a complicated network of Western individuals, who have been busy in the background of Zimbabwe’s political crisis, lobbying for Mugabe.
“I am sure there are quite a lot of people who have been lobbying in this way, some even quite publicly, some clandestinely. We expect the US to clamp down quite hard in this case, but it is not the only case I am sure,” Mashiri said. However there were no reports of charges being filed against any Israeli or European lobbyists.
By: Alex Bell