Prominent Illinois politicians linked to illegal Africa lobbying

August 6, 2013 4:56:35 PM PDT
Several prominent Illinois politicians have been linked to an illegal African lobbying effort.

The federal investigation has resulted in charges against two Chicago men.

Longtime Chicago Congressman Danny Davis is seeking legal counsel because he was lobbied by one of those charged in Tuesday's federal case.

Davis and Congressman Bobby Rush are among four Illinois politicians wrapped up in an effort to lift U.S. Economic sanctions against the African nation of Zimbabwe.

Longtime Chicago political activist Prince Asiel Ben Israel is charged with accepting nearly $3.5 million from Zimbabwe officials to help dictator Robert Mugabe shake American trade sanctions. Charged with the 72-year-old Ben Israel is C. Gregory Turner, a Chicago business developer who is 71 years old.

According to federal charges, the men arranged trips by U.S. government officials to meet with Mugabe; and that afterward Illinois officials promised to deliver information to then president-elect Barack Obama about lifting the economic sanctions. They lobbied a caucus of state legislators on behalf of Zimbabwean officials and did so having failed to apply for a Treasury Department license to engage in lobbying.

A spokesman for Congressman Danny Davis confirms the was "briefed by Ben Israel, is now seeking legal counsel and expects to meet soon with federal officials."

Authorities haven't named the other Chicago representative who was lobbied but the charges say they sponsored legislation to remove sanctions on Mugabe's regime. Davis and Congressman Bobby Rush were the Illinois congressmen who co-sponsored that bill.

Rush released a statement saying:

"I had been scheduled to travel to Africa as part of an official delegation in 2009. If my itinerary had been shared with anyone connected with Zimbabwe or Zimbabwe officials, I had no knowledge of it. Zimbabwe was not on my itinerary, which included the following countries: Ghana, South Africa, Angola, Liberia, and an overnight stay in Morroco [sic]. Due to sudden illness, I did not travel with the delegation. This is the first I've heard of this. I have not been questioned and I am not a cooperating witness. Also, I have not been notified by the U.S. Department of Justice that I am Representative B in the complaint. I have not retained private counsel and see no need to do so at this time."


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