The owner of Eko Hotel, Gilbert Chagoury, has reportedly paid the sum of $1.8 million in fines to the United States government. This is after the key financier of Eko Atlantic project, was banned from entering U.S over his indictment on charges relating to violation of the country’s election laws and alleged funding of terrorism.
Chagoury was fined $1.8 million by the U.S. Department of Justice after he was alleged of conniving with some associates to make illegal campaign contributions to at least four political candidates between June 2012 and March 2016, according to a report by Gazette.
It was learnt that in a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S government, Chagoury admitted that he contributed illegally to interfere in an election.
The Nigerian-Lebanese businessman agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation into the scandal. He was said to have entered into the agreement on October 19, 2019, and settled the fines in December 2019.
In a release in March, the country’s Department of Justice noted that: “Federal prosecutors entered into the deferred prosecution agreement considering, among other factors, Chagoury’s unique assistance to the U.S. government, his payment of a fine, Chagoury’s acceptance of responsibility for his actions, and his residence outside the United States.”
However, Chagoury’s associates identified as Joseph Arsan and Toufic Joseph Baaklini agreed to resolve allegations that they violated campaign contribution laws by assisting Chagoury in his illegal contributions.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Chagoury has for long been a very close friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton and known to have contributed millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. The relationship was said to be strong enough for Clinton’s closest aide to push for Chagoury to get access to top diplomats.
The Clintons have reportedly helped Chagoury promote his bankable Eko Atlantic project, presumably as payback for his generous donations to their political and social interests.
The government agencies were said to be examining accusations that he had unsavory affiliations based on his activities and friendships in Lebanon while talks were underway.
Chagoury who was born in Lagos to a Lebanese couple was denied a visa in 2015, when Ms. Clinton ran for president, amidst raging allegations of his ties with Hezbollah, an Islamist militant group long blacklisted by the U.S.
The claims were made based on a 2013 intelligence report from the FBI which claimed that the billionaire sent funds to Michel Aoun, a Lebanese Christian politician who served as army commander and prime minister during the country’s civil war, while the said funds were transferred to Hezbollah. He was “facilitating fundraising for Hezbollah,” a source reportedly told Los Angeles Times at the time.
The U.S. put Chagoury in its database used to screen travelers for possible links to terrorism, the outlet said citing an internal government memo on the watchlist.
In September 2016, Chagoury sued the FBI and other U.S. agencies to claim damages to his reputation, in a bid to clear his name.
He had strongly denied any ties to terrorist groups, and has long been known to make generous donations to Christian organisations in Nigeria, Lebanon and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, a large chunk of Nigeria’s former maximum ruler, Sani Abacha’s loot was allegedly traced to Chagoury’s businesses and bank accounts, as he was long reported to be a top insider in the regime of Sani Abacha.
Chagoury denied the allegation when former President Olusegun Obasanjo went after him and other conduits used by the late dictator. He insisted he didn’t know he was laundering stolen public funds for Abacha. He nonetheless reportedly returned about $65 million to Nigeria and paid roughly $600,000 in fines over the plunder.