ITWASSOOTED: With reports of over 200 contacts between convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the Bush White House,

Thursday, January 19, 2006

With reports of over 200 contacts between convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the Bush White House,

January 19, 2006 -- With reports of over 200 contacts between convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the Bush White House, there is also renewed interest in what "neighbor" Abramoff was referring to in his July 28, 2003 letter, written on Greenberg Traurig LLP stationery, to Gabon's President Omar Bongo concerning a proposed visit to the White House by the oil-rich African dictator. Abramoff was paid $9 million by Bongo for arranging the visit. Abramoff is no stranger to representing African dictators. His clients have included the late Zaire (Congo) strongman Mobutu Sese Seko and Angola's assassinated rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. Indicted White House aide David Safavian, an Abramoff associate, also represented Bongo.

In his letter to Bongo, Abramoff states:

"I have been cautiously working to obtain a visit for the President . . . to see President Bush, the Congress and policy and opinion makers in the United States. As you know, we were, in advance of the war in Iraq, able to secure a tentative date for this meeting, however, the war cancelled all such scheduled visits, with the exception of the critical US war allies.

Since the time of the war, we have been discussing a rescheduling of the meeting.

Our firm was approached by a neighboring nation which also desired such a meeting, and indeed much more than a meeting. Of course, our firm's main strength is not in just setting up meetings, but in changing and impacting US policy, so to the neighbor, the meeting is important, but merely the tip of the iceberg.

The neighbor has offered to put up the resources which are necessary to not only secure a meeting, but more importantly, to commence a policy effort in Washington which could impact America's Africa policy in limited ways. These resources are substantial and would be used to build a support network for the neighbor which would enable the decision makers to move the neighbor up on the priority list. . . .

I suggested that I visit Gabon after my trip to Scotland in mid August, but that in order for me to preserve this and be able to turn down the neighbor's offer, we had to commence the representation, even in small part, perhaps ten percent . . . . Please bear in mind that the neighbor's proposal was to pay the entire amount up front."

According to informed sources in Washington, the "neighbor" referred to by Abramoff was oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, run by brutal dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. In March 2004, South African and Zimbabwean forces foiled a coup attempt by British and South African mercenaries against Obiang. Later, Mark Thatcher, the son of Margaret Thatcher, pleaded guilty to his involvement in the coup in a South African court. Abramoff has close links to friends and associates of Margaret Thatcher, having helped arrange meetings between her and GOP officials. It was revealed that senior British, Spanish, and American defense and intelligence officials, including Bush administration officials Michael Westphal and Theresa Whelan, were involved in the coup plot. Amid rumors that Washington wanted Obiang out of power, Obiang wanted to make a pitch for friendlier contacts with the Bush administration. Hence, the outreach to Abramoff. But Obiang also had close financial links to the now-defunct Riggs Bank, a bank for which George W. Bush's uncle, Jonathan Bush, served as a senior official over a number of years.

Shortly before the March 2004 coup attempt, Obiang was abruptly told to close his Riggs account during a visit to the bank in Washington and Obiang's Riggs' account manager Simon Kareri was subsequently fired by the bank and his computer and files were seized at his home by FBI agents. It was discovered that Riggs and Obiang were involved in an Obiang-run slush fund called Abayak SA that received and paid out large sums of cash for various "services."

Obiang at a Sept. 24, 2003 reception at Tavern on the Green in Manhattan hosted by top U.S. businessmen, including officials of Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, and Halliburton.

Jonathan Bush ran a New Haven, Connecticut-based Riggs subsidiary called J. Bush & Co., a money management firm that later morphed into Riggs Investment Management Company (RIMCO). Federal investigators discovered that Riggs set up phony and deceptive accounts and dummy corporations in off-shore locations like the Bahamas. Riggs was caught up in the Russian Mafia money laundering scandal through its stake in a Channel Islands company called Valmet. That scandal involved jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Bank of New York scandal involving key Russian Mafia figures tied to various Abramoff business dealings, including gambling casinos and Internet gambling. In May 2005, after Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev were convicted of tax evasion and fraud by a Russian court and sentenced to nine years in prison, George W. Bush immediately came to the defense of these Russian Mafia kingpins. LINK TO
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