A billionaire suspected of having links to Hezbollah gave $50,000 to a former Obama administration Cabinet member, according to the Department of Justice.
A DOJ news release Wednesday said Ray LaHood, who served as transportation secretary from 2009 to 2013, accepted $50,000 from an associate of Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire.
At the time, the billionaire was in the news over contributions of between $1 million and $5 million that he made to the Clinton Foundation.
The Justice Department said Chagoury, 75, paid $1.8 million to resolve allegations that he and others donated $180,000 to various political candidates, violating the federal ban on candidates accepting foreign donations.
Although Chagoury, who lives in Paris, paid the fine in December 2019, the Justice Department announced the disposition of the case Wednesday.
Two Chagoury associates — Joseph Arsan, 68, also of Paris, and Toufic Joseph Baaklini, 58, of Washington, D.C. — also paid fines to resolve outstanding charges against them.
Arsan’s deferred prosecution agreement included paying $1.7 million to resolve tax issues against him, the DOJ news release said.
In Baaklini’s agreement to avoid prosecution, he “admitted to giving $30,000 in cash provided by Chagoury to an individual at a restaurant in Los Angeles who, along with others, later made campaign contributions to the 2016 campaign of a U.S. congressman,” the release said.
Baaklini paid a $90,000 fine.
In what the Justice Department called a “separate and unrelated matter,” LaHood paid a $40,000 fine to dispose of the allegations against him, the release said.
“LaHood, who at the time was suffering financial difficulties, admitted that in 2012 he accepted a $50,000 personal check from Baaklini — with the word ‘Loan’ written in the check’s memo portion — and understood at the time that the money came from Chagoury,” the release said.
“LaHood failed to disclose the $50,000 check on two government ethics forms as required because LaHood did not want to be associated with Chagoury,” the release said.
LaHood, who represented Illinois in Congress from 1995 until he joined the Obama administration, “also made misleading statements to FBI agents investigating Chagoury about the check and its source,” the release said.
He later agreed to cooperate with the federal investigation and repaid the $50,000, the release said.
Politico reported Wednesday that based on its research, the donations from Chagoury went to then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, the 2014 campaigns of former Republican Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska and Rep. Darrell Issa of California, and the 2016 campaign of Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska.
The campaigns were not aware the donations originated with Chagoury, Politico reported.
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