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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 14:48 GMT
Probe 'widens' into Clinton pardons
Former US President Bill Clinton
Mr Clinton denies he did anything wrong
US justice officials have dramatically stepped up their investigation into the pardons granted by former President Bill Clinton on his last day in office, according to American press reports.

Just a handful of controversial cases have been under review since the growing scandal first broke.

But the inquiry now has powers to look into every one of the 177 pardons, commutations and acts of clemency, the reports say.

She [Mary Jo White] has the right of first refusal on all those cases

Justice source
The pardons have sparked a flood of complaints and allegations that Mr Clinton granted them in return for favours, which he denies.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a special team of prosecutors has already been set up to carry out the wider scrutiny.

The newspaper quotes an unnamed justice department official as saying US Attorney Mary Jo White, a New York City prosecutor, "is going to be doing the investigation of all of these cases".

Marc Rich
Marc Rich: Helped by powerful friends
Another source, quoted by The Washington Post, said the beefed-up inquiry had been approved by Attorney-General John Ashcroft.

It had been underway for at least a week, the source said.

The New York prosecutor's office declined to speak to the Los Angeles Times about its expanded role.

Cases it could take on include a commutation for convicted Los Angeles drug dealer Carlos Vignali, which has been the target of much criticism.

His father, Horacio, is a rich and powerful leader in the Los Angeles Hispanic community who has made large donations to the Democratic party.


Of the cases being handled by the White review in Manhattan, the one that has caused the most fuss has been the pardon for billionaire commodities trader Marc Rich.

Bill and Hillary Clinton
Troubled times since January
He fled abroad to evade prosecution for tax evasion and fraud in 1983 and his ex-wife has made large donations to the Democratic party.

Others include Mr Clinton's brother, Roger, who was pardoned for a 1985 cocaine-related offence, and is also accused of receiving up to $200,000 for promising to help a Texas man win a pardon.

And family members on the side of Mr Clinton's wife, Hillary, are also involved.

Her younger brother, Miami lawyer Hugh Rodham, accepted money from, among others, the Vignali family to act on their behalf.

He later returned the cash at the Clintons' insistence. They both said they had been unaware of his actions.

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