Friday, January 1, 2010

Clinton donor, Frank Giustra, an apparent conflict of interest for Obama?

Former President Bill Clinton's charity released a donor list Friday under an agreement with President Barack Obama to prevent conflicts with Hillary Rodham Clinton's role as secretary of state.

Listed among donors who contributed more than $25 million is a Canadian mining tycoon by the name of Frank Giustra.

Guistra's name is of particular concern for the following reasons:

In September 2005, Giustra flew Mr. Clinton to Kazakhstan as part of a three-country philanthropic tour. Within two days of the former President's meeting with Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev, Giustra's fledgling uranium company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by the 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. - Source - Wikipedia

In 2006, in the months after Mr. Clinton's visit helped secure Giustra's company the right to mine uranium in Kazakhstan, Mr. Giustra donated $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation. [This figure is at variance with the one released by the William J. Clinton Foundation (on the 18 December 2008), as part of an arrangement with President-elect Obama. It reports Frank Giustra as giving between US $10-25 million.] - Source - Wikipedia

However, just a few days ago, the AP reported that Iran was close to an agreement to buy 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions. The report obtained by the AP said the deal could be completed within weeks. It said Tehran was willing to pay $450 million, or close to 315 million euros, for the shipment.

Of course, I have no way of knowing whether this purchase is being made from one of Mr. Giustra's mines or not, but, if indeed Mr. Giustra is involved in the deal, it goes without saying, that this would be a huge conflict of interest for both President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Giustra is also a director of the International Crisis Group, an organization that has been pushing for the US to normalize relations with both Iran and Syria.

The Crisis Group is co-chaired by former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas R. Pickering. Several months ago, the Arab weekly, Al-Ahram reported that a meeting between two senior Hamas officials and Mr. Pickering in Geneva in mid-June had been coordinated and promoted by the US State Department. The Washington Post reported that the Hamas officials had said they believed the meeting "represented an opening in relations with the Obama administration."

Robert Malley, who served as Barack Obama's Middle East policy adviser during the presidential campaign, is the Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group.

In May 2008, Barack Obama's presidential campaign annouced that it had severed ties with Malley after the latter told the Times of London he had been in regular contact with Hamas. The Obama campaign insisted that Mr. Malley had met with Hamas on his own accord. However, in November of 2008, it was reported that an aide to the then-Democratic presidential nominne, said that Mr. Obama had sent Malley to both Egypt and Syria to outline Obama's policy on the Middle East. The aide said Malley relayed a pledge from Obama that the United States would seek to reconcile with Damascus.

Conclusion: If President Obama and Hillary Clinton wish to avoid a blatant conflct of interest, it would behoove them to make sure Mr. Clinton returns all charitable contributions he has ever received from Mr. Giustra.