via US VP held ‘off-radar’ Gono meeting. 04 September 2014
UNITED States Vice-President Joe Biden held an “off the radar” private reception for former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe chief Gideon Gono in 2006 as the Harare regime offered $3.4 million to dodgy Chicago businessmen to help lobby for the removal of sanctions.
Gono said “no comment” when approached Friday morning about the allegations.
Zimbabwe wanted the sanctions – to which Gono was subjected – removed, blaming them for the country’s economic crisis.
The sanctions were imposed in 2001 to punish Harare for alleged rights abuses and electoral impropriety which Mugabe denies.
One of the lobbyists targeted by the Zimbabwean authorities, Prince Asiel Ben Israel, 73, was jailed last month for illegally lobbying on Mugabe’s behalf. His co-defendant C. Gregory Turner, 71, faces trial on similar charges on September 29.
Prosecutors allege the two told Zimbabwean officials in November 2008 that they knew many politicians with close ties to then President-elect Barack Obama.
According to the charges, Ben Israel and Turner were successful in arranging for a senator and several other lawmakers to meet with Mugabe and other top Zimbabwe officials during several trips there in 2008 and 2009.
Two of the targeted representatives participated in numerous meetings about the lobbying effort and also sponsored a failed 2010 House resolution to end the sanctions against Zimbabwe.
However, last week, Turner’s attorneys alleged in a separate court filing that a 2006 Capitol Hill meeting between Gono, then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden and other congressional leaders led him to believe his activities to end longtime economic sanctions were lawful.
The attorneys want to present evidence at trial of an off-the-radar “welcome reception” in 2006 for Gono, head of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, who was on a list of “specially designated nationals” targeted for U.S. sanctions since 2001.
Biden, now vice president, had co-sponsored the reception though he was one of the key sponsors of the sanctions legislation five years earlier, according to the defence filing.
Numerous members of the Congressional Black Caucus also attended the meeting in a reception room on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol to hear Gono speak about the effect of the sanctions on the people of Zimbabwe, the filing said.
No cameras were allowed at the function, but a “short video” was secretly made by one of the attendees, according to the filing.
News of the warm reception Gono received soon reached Turner, who at the time was in Zimbabwe working with a private organisation aimed at helping the people of the impoverished nation, according to the filing.
Turner’s attorney, James Tunick, said the evidence would show that Turner “did not in any way act with intent to violate the law.”
“When the signal came from the U.S. government and legislators that there might be a change to their position on sanctions, he had people come to Zimbabwe and see the effects of the sanctions.”