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The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"For the past 17 years Mr Rich has been a wanted criminal"
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The BBC's Jonny Dymond
"[Clinton] no longer controls the agenda"
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The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"It's going to be very difficult to make a prosecution out of this"
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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 03:08 GMT
Clinton faces criminal inquiry
Bill Clinton in Harlem
Clinton continues to be the centre of attention
Federal prosecutors in the United States are to conduct a criminal investigation into the pardoning of a fugitive multi-millionaire businessman by the former president, Bill Clinton.

The US Attorney in New York, Mary Jo White, says she will attempt to discover whether there was an illegal transfer of money to obtain the pardon.

Two congressional committees are already conducting inquiries into the pardoning of the businessman, Marc Rich, who fled to Switzerland 17 years ago while facing more than 50 charges of tax evasion and illegal oil trading.

Marc Rich
Marc Rich: Faced charges of evading more than $48m in taxes, fraud and participating in illegal oil deals with Iran.
Ms White is expected to examine bank records, telephone records and other documents to determine whether there was anything criminal in Mr Clinton's decision to grant Mr Rich a pardon.

She is said to have been incensed by the pardon, about which she was not consulted - even though her office brought the initial criminal case against Rich in 1983.

It has already emerged that Mr Rich's former wife, Denise, was a major donor to the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton's successful campaign to be elected to the US Senate.

Mrs Rich, who also gave at least $450,000 to the Clinton Presidential Library Fund, has refused to answer questions from a House of Representatives panel, citing her constitutional right against self-incrimination.

The panel expects to subpoena records this week from two of Denise Rich's American banks, from the Clinton library on all donations and pledges of $5,000 or more, and from the Democratic National Committee.

The pardon for Mr Rich was one of 141 signed by Mr Clinton, who also commuted the sentences of 36 others on his final day in office.

It has prompted criticism by Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Late night call

On Wednesday, a Senate Judiciary Committee heard that the White House did not inform the lawyer in charge of pardons that Mr Rich was a fugitive from US justice.

US Pardon Attorney Roger Adams, said the pardons of Mr Rich and his business associate Pincus Green "were not handled in anything approaching the normal way".

Mr Adams said he was not notified of the two pardons until he received a late night call from the White House counsel's office, less than 12 hours before Mr Clinton left office.

"I was not told they were fugitives," said Mr Adams. "I learned that from the FBI."

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See also:

14 Feb 01 | Americas
Senate probes Clinton pardons
26 Jan 01 | Americas
Clinton gifts under scrutiny
20 Jan 01 | Americas
Clinton pardons 100
13 Feb 01 | Americas
Cloud follows Clinton
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