A few years ago, I spent some time in Dakar, a relatively cosmopolitan West African city in Senegal. There was a large, thriving Lebanese community there and, I later found out, in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Many just wound up there on the way to Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico where there are around 4 million people of Lebanese descent. So it didn't surprise me at all when I saw a description of Gilbert Chagoury in the news as Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire. (His family is worth over $4 billion. I know it's horrible to make this kind of generalization but put together the 3 descriptors "Lebanese," "Nigerian" and "billionaire" and you know the missing 4th word is "crook.") In the case of Chagoury, he was bribing conservative American politicians for a very long time-- career criminals Bill and Hillary Clinton (having once contributed about half a million dollars to one of their political operations and finding ways to funnel large amounts of money into Clinton's pockets through "speaking fees") and lots of Republican politicians, several of whom are still in Congress.
Last week, the Justice Department released a statement about resolving a case-- without calling it bribery, so as to protect the American politicians because... well that's the way the Justice Department works-- in which Chagoury and a couple of his cronies illegally laundered money into election campaigns for Mitt Romney (R-UT), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Ray LaHood (R-IL), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Lee Terry (R-NE). Actually, in LaHood's case it was a straight up bribe into his own pockets, not into his campaign.
No politicians were arrested but LaHood was fined $40,000 and forced to return a $50,000 unsecured "loan." Chagoury agreed to pay the DOJ $1.8 million to make the whole mess go away even though he has a long, sordid history of this kind of criminality. He was caught using illegal straw man operations to give around $180,000 to Romney, Issa, who is also of Lebanese heritage and also a notorious career criminal, Fortenberry and Terry. When you're wealthy or politically powerful-- the kind of thing is very rarely any kind of a problem in America (or Nigeria or Lebanon).
As part of his "deferred prosecution" deal-- a sweetheart deal reserved for wealthy and well-connected criminals-- Chagoury admitted he gave the contributions to a third party as a way of illegally contributing to the campaigns. Two of Chagoury cronies got the same deal. A spokesperson in the fixer team handling the Trump-Russia investigation, Mark Corallo, also handled the same duties for Chagoury 9and at the same time he was working for Trump). Oh, and by the way, Corallo routed funds for Chagoury through a network of crooked operatives working for him in his influence pedaling activities, including to former Congressman Jerry Weller (R-IL).
Chagoury, a convicted money launderer and a Hezbollah financier, was part of two of the most corrupt regimes in Africa, where he was "an advisor" to Nigerian Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Sani Abacha, widely considered the most corrupt head of state in the world at one point, having diverted at least a billion dollars from Nigeria's oil-rich economy into his own and Chagoury's foreign bank accounts and investments.
Chagoury, who has painted himself as "a philanthropist" instead of the head of an international crime syndicate bought himself an ambassadorship from St Lucia to the Vatican and from Benin to UNESCO.