Ed Burke trial: New testimony about ties to alleged shakedown involving Burger King restaurant

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Tuesday, December 5, 2023
New testimony about alleged tax appeal scheme in Ed Burke trial
As the Ed Burke trial in Chicago continues, there was more testimony Tuesday about his ties to an alleged shakedown involving a Burger King.

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There was new testimony on Tuesday about former Alderman Ed Burke's ties to an alleged shakedown involving a Burger King restaurant in what was once his aldermanic ward.

The prosecution laid out more of its case in Burke's corruption trial.

For several months in 2017, sales at a Burger King in Ed Burke's ward were down 55% because a rehab project had been stalled forcing the dining room at 40th and Pulaski to temporarily shut down. Working for his father's Houston-based fast food company, Zohaib Dhanani was in charge of the project.

In the public corruption trial against Burke, Dhanani was yet another witness from Burger King to testify about a scheme where Burke is accused of shaking the owner down for tax appeal work. While the restaurant was given the green light from the city's building department, Burke's office ordered the rehab work shut down because it lacked a driveway permit.

Earlier in the trial, jurors learned that Burke had already pitched his law firm, Klafter & Burke to Dhanani's father. During a secretly recorded phone conversation between Burke and Dhanani, Burke asked, "Are we going to talk about real estate tax representation? And, are you going to have to have someone call me about the permits for remodeling?"

Dhanani testified he was "taken back a bit" that Burke would mention property tax appeal work and permits in the same sentence. Dhanani told jurors, "It felt unusual. It felt weird, the two being linked together."

Dhanani's father, Shoukat Dhanani, had previously testified that he felt the pressure to hire Burke's law firm in order to get the Burger King renovation project rolling again.

During this time period, Burke invited the Dhananis to a fundraiser for then-mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle. The Dhananis didn't go, but felt it would help their relationship with Burke to give her a $10,000 campaign donation.

During cross-examination by defense attorneys, Dhanani was asked if Burke had ever threatened him or used fear or intimidation tactics. Dhanani, replied, "No." Dhanani also admitted the cause of the restaurant shutdown for several months was his company's failure to get a driveway permit.