A Chicago man, C. Gregory Turner, who entered into a contract with the Zimbabwean government to lobby for the lifting of sanctions against the Southern African country, was yesterday sentenced to 15 months in jail for violating the United States sanctions laws.
Turner and his colleague, Prince Asiel Ben Israel, entered into a $3.4 million contract with the Zimbabwean government to lobby for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe but failed dismally. They were paid an initial deposit of about $90 000.
Zimbabwe has been under US sanctions for the past 13 years.
Ben Israeli pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to seven months in Jail. Turner pleaded not guilty but was convicted in October.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Turner argued that his actions were reckless but he wanted to help Zimbabwe on humanitarian grounds because some 14 million people were going to starve.
Zimbabwe’s population is officially put at about 12 million.
“It was never my intention to circumvent the US government,” was quoted as saying. “I’m sorry for the mistake, but I am not sorry for attempting to help 14 million people who are starving.”
State attorney Barry Jonas, however, said Turner did what he did to make money and not for humanitarian reasons.
“To say he is a humanitarian is a sham. He’s actually out for himself to make money,” Jonas said.
Prosecutors said Turner attempted to sell an interview with First Lady Michelle Obama to a journalist in Ghana for $200 000. He was also involved in get-rich schemes involving diamond mining and financing tobacco exports.
Turner tried to cash in on Zimbabwe diamonds and formed a company called Edenic Diamond Resources and tried to rope in South African diamond executive Ernest Blom and Mbada Diamonds chairman Robert Mhlanga but the deals fell through.