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The BBC's Mike Sanders
"Clinton says ordinarily he would not have pardoned Mr Rich"
 real 28k

Sunday, 18 February, 2001, 07:46 GMT
Clinton defends controversial pardon
Former US President Bill Clinton
Mr Clinton has been explaining his decision
Former US President Bill Clinton has defended his controversial decision to pardon a fugitive financier, Marc Rich, on his last day as president.

The pardon - one of 140 Mr Clinton signed on 20 January - has evoked a storm of protest and prompted inquiries by the Senate Judiciary Committee and a federal attorney in New York.

Marc Rich
Marc Rich: Helped by powerful friends
Mr Rich's former wife, Denise, is a major contributor to Mr Clinton's Democratic party and to the Clintons personally, and there have been accusations that she bought the pardon for her ex-husband.

Writing in the New York Times newspaper on Sunday, Mr Clinton insisted that "there was absolutely no quid pro quo".

He listed eight reasons for granting the pardon to Mr Rich, who faced more than 50 counts of fraud and racketeering connected with purchases of oil from Iran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution, in violation of a US embargo.

Host of reasons

Mr Clinton said that he gave Mr Rich clemency because

  • two respected tax experts who had reviewed the case concluded that Mr Rich's company's tax affairs were, in fact, in order;

  • Mr Rich's company and that of his business partner Pincas Green had paid approximately $200m in fines for offences that the tax lawyers believed they might not have committed;

  • Others who had committed apparently similar offences had been sued in civil court rather than facing criminal charges;

  • Mr Rich and Mr Green agreed, through their lawyers, to waive "any and all defences to any civil charge that the government might bring against them" as the criminal charges were erased;

  • Israeli politicians and Jewish community leaders lobbied for the pardon. Mr Rich is a benefactor of many Jewish causes, and Mr Clinton credited him with "contributions to the peace process through sponsorship of education and health programmes in Gaza and the West Bank".

The former president also said respected Republican lawyers had advocated the pardon, and that he understood the position of the Deputy Attorney General to be "neutral, leaning for".

Investigations

But Mr Clinton admitted that he should have consulted the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White, whose predecessor originally brought the charges against Mr Rich.

Ms White is now investigating possible connections between Denise Rich's contributions to the Clintons and the pardon.

The former president heatedly denied any such connection.

"The suggestion that I granted the pardons because Mr Rich's former wife, Denise, made political contributions and contributed to the Clinton library foundation is utterly false", he wrote.

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See also:

15 Feb 01 | Americas
Clinton faces criminal inquiry
15 Feb 01 | Americas
Q&A: Clinton pardon row
14 Feb 01 | Americas
Senate probes Clinton pardons
26 Jan 01 | Americas
Clinton gifts under scrutiny
20 Jan 01 | Americas
Clinton pardons 100
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