Two Chicago men who promised to lobby United States President Barack Obama, a former Illinois senator, to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe were paid US$90 000 in Botswana as an initial down payment but failed to make any dent.
Prince Asiel Ben Israel and C. Gregory Turner signed a US$3.4 million “Consulting Agreement” to lobby for the lifting of the sanctions shortly after the election of Obama in 2008.
Ben Israel signed on behalf of the partners and Monica Mutsvangwa on behalf of the Zimbabwean authorities though at the time she was just a Senator.
Under the agreement signed on 26 November 2008, the Chicago men were to be paid $3 405 000 in four instalments:
- $90 000 at the signing of the contract;
- $1 105 000 upon completion of the “Zimbabwe meeting”;
- $1 105 000 “upon completion of the South Africa meeting ”; and
- $1 105 000 “upon completion of” the project.
On 4 December 2008, Monica Mutsvangwa transferred $90 000 from her account with the African Banking Corporation in Botswana and the money was transferred to Ben Israel’s account with National City Bank in Chicago.
The transfer was described as a fee for “business consultancy”.
The National City Bank, however, refused to approve the transfer, now amounting to $89 970, after Ben Israel failed to give a satisfactory explanation of what the money was for and the bank realised that the money was coming from someone affiliated to the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
The money was returned to Mutsvangwa’s account in Botswana on 23 December 2008.
However, according to court documents, Ben Israel withdrew $90 000 from Mutsvangwa’s account in Botswana on 16 December 2008.
According to court documents the withdrawal was approved by Monica’s husband Christopher Mutsvangwa, Zimbabwe’s former ambassador to China and now Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister.
Christopher Mutsvangwa wrote ABC bank: “This letter serves to authorize Prince Asiel Ben Israel . . . to collect USD 90.000 (Ninety Thousand Dollars) from our account in Botswana. The funds will be collected on Tuesday the 16th of December 2008 at 9am.”
The two, however, failed to have sanctions on Zimbabwe lifted. Obama has renewed the sanctions every year up to now though the European Union has lifted the sanctions except on Mugabe and his wife Grace and the Zimbabwe Defence Industries.
Ben Israel and Turner were last year charged with breaching United States sanctions laws.
Ben Israel pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven months in jail in August this year.
Turner pleaded not guilty but was convicted by a jury last week which acquitted him on two of the three counts. He will be sentenced next year.