A 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, an investigation by The Times discloses.
The money transfer raises the question of whether funds from Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, helped Mr Obama buy his mock Georgian mansion in Chicago.
A company related to Mr Auchi, who has a conviction for corruption in France, registered the loan to Mr Obama's bagman Antoin "Tony" Rezko on May 23 2005. Mr Auchi says the loan, through the Panamanian company Fintrade Services SA, was for $3.5 million.
Three weeks later, Mr Obama bought a house on the city's South Side while Mr Rezko's wife bought the garden plot next door from the same seller on the same day, June 15.
Sun Times, Obama's name may surface in Rezko's trial:
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.
In a nine-page ruling this afternoon, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve said she would allow federal prosecutors to present evidence about a portion of a $375,000 finder’s fee that a Rezko associate, Joseph Aramanda, obtained through an alleged kickback scheme orchestrated by Rezko.Aramanda allegedly donated to an unnamed political candidate, presumably Obama, as Rezko had reached the limit. At least one other donor was allegedly instructed by Rezko to do the same. The Obama campaign claims ignorance. The Sun Times goes on:
Rezko was once part of Obama’s senatorial finance committee.
Informed of the judge’s ruling, Obama presidential campaign spokesman Bill Burton said, “We had no knowledge of any straw donations and have returned any of the donations about which we have any reasonable question.
“By now it is well established that Sen. Obama is not involved in the matters at issue in the [Rezko] trial.”
Well established non-involvement. Supposedly this is all old news. Good luck with that.
UPDATE: IBD with more on Obama's backers, including those in Washington. And after his denying it for months, Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is not running for president, is revealed to be Public Official A.
UPDATE: The Politico reports that Obama is stiffing, stifling the national press corps:
Around the Super Tuesday primary elections on Feb. 5, the barriers around the press area at Obama events went from easily penetrable, fabric rope lines to interlocking metal gates manned by vigilant gatekeepers.Gee I wonder why? (see above for all the more reason, beyond a traditional front-runner's tendency to play it safe and spend more time with the local press). And the Politico reporter points out this contrasts poorly with McCain's access. Even Hillary is more open.
Bottom line: The media can no longer roam free.
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