I-Team: Chicago businessman accused in Zimbabwe lobbying case to fight charges

August 15, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Thursday night, 71-year-old South Side businessman Gregory Turner says he will fight the federal charges that he was in cahoots with the bloodthirsty president of Zimbabwe and that he allegedly illegally lobbied Chicago congressman to help fight that nation's trade sanctions.

Turner was charged last week but was overseas at the time. He surrendered Thursday afternoon at O'Hare International Airport and appeared late Thursday in federal court.

Late Thursday afternoon, Turner made bond at the Dirksen Federal Building in downtown Chicago.

There was an arrest warrant for Turner after federal prosecutors charged him and codefendant prince Asiel Ben Israel of trying to put an end to U.S. economic sanctions against Robert Mugabe, who leads a brutal regime in Zimbabwe. According to authorities, Mugabe was to pay nearly three and a half million dollars to Ben Israel and Turner for the illegal lobbying of several United States congressmen.

"Mr. Turner traveled all the way from Israel voluntarily as soon as he found out about this complaint to clear his good name," said Turner's attorney, James Tunick. "He's 71 years old, he's been leading delegations to Africa with various politicians open and obviously and he maintains his absolute innocence of these charges and we'll go from here."

"They're serious charges and we will be responding," Turner said.

Two Illinois congressman, Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, are among the unnamed politicians who were allegedly lobbied by the Zimababwe effort.

"I'm not going to comment about Danny Davis or Bobby Rush, this case isn't about Danny Davis or Bobby Rush," Tunick said.

Neither of the Chicago representatives is accused of crimes.

In addition to the diplomatic questions raised, this case is unusual because of how the government apparently collected some evidence.

As the I-Team first reported last week federal authorities secretly obtained evidence under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a controversial law known as FISA, usually reserved for terrorist investigations.

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