- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2001

"I spent a lot of time on that case," former President Bill Clinton told reporters during the firestorm that erupted after he had pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich on his last day in office. Not so much work, it seems, that Mr. Clinton was able to learn the widely published details of Mr. Richs decades-long role, trading with many of Americas most implacable enemies. Or maybe he just didnt care.

According to Justice Department guidelines, people seeking pardons should have "demonstrated good conduct for a substantial period of time" to show "strong evidence of rehabilitation and worthiness of pardon." However, two investigative news articles, one from the Wall Street Journal and the other from the New York Times this month, have convincingly portrayed Mr. Rich as a shadowy commodities trader utterly unconcerned by the fact that he routinely earned millions of dollars in trading profits by dealing with one pariah nation after another.

For the past 17 years since the 51-count federal indictment charged Mr. Rich, his partner Pincus Green and their company with evading $48 million in taxes and with illegally trading with Iran during the 1979-81 hostage crisis, Mr. Rich has lived mostly in Switzerland, where he was one of the nation´s most wanted fugitives. Throughout that period he has been routinely conducting trading deals with Iran, Libya, Cuba and South Africa. Moreover, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mr. Rich greatly facilitated the Soviets´ annual multibillion-dollar oil-subsidy of the Castro regime in Cuba. Mr. Rich also conducted highly questionable deals with the communist government of Romania´s President Nicolae Ceausescu, who was arguably Eastern Europe´s most hated dictator.

In past years, Mr. Rich has offered convoluted, contradictory explanations and justifications of his actions. Regarding the charge of trading with Iran while 53 Americans were being held hostage, for example, Mr. Rich argued that deals were engineered by his Swiss-based company, which would not be covered by U.S. law. Thus, he refused in 1983 to provide investigators with documents from his Iranian trades. A federal judge rejected his argument, and imposed a $50,000-per-day fine. Hours later, according to the Times, Mr. Rich responded by selling his American subsidiary to an associate. The fines continued to accrue, however, and finally on Friday, Aug. 5, 1983, Mr. Rich relented and agreed to provide the documents demanded by prosecutors. Three days later, however, federal agents, acting on a tip, nabbed a Swiss-bound plan taxiing on a Kennedy Airport runway. Aboard the plane investigators found two steamer trunks that contained documents providing proof that Messrs. Rich and Green were directly involved in violating the embargo against trading with Iran. Indictments followed the next month, but they had already fled to Switzerland.

Fortunately for Mr. Rich, the Clinton White House was either too lazy to review the easily accessible databases replete with articles describing Mr. Rich´s activities with anti-American pariah nations. Here´s what the Journal and the Times found:

Despite an executive order by Mr. Clinton in 1995 that "prohibits all trade and investment activities with Iran by United States persons wherever located," Mr. Rich´s metal traders shipped unprocessed aluminum to Iranian smelters in 1999 and 2000 and then sold the finished product throughout the world.

Six months after Saddam Hussein fired Scud missiles at Israel, where Mr. Rich has been an active philanthropist, his Madrid office inexplicably inquired about purchasing as much as 150,000 barrels of oil per day from Iraq, which was then under an international embargo, a former investigator for Kroll Associates Inc. told the Journal.

During the late 1980s, after President Reagan had ordered Americans not to trade commodities with Libya, which had been implicated in the terrorist attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports, Mr. Rich´s company purchased Libyan oil through third parties. The Journal was told by two traders at Marc Rich Investment that the firm shipped barley and soybeans to Libya during the late 1990s, while those commodities were still embargoed.

During a U.S. embargo against South Africa, the Rich firm sold millions of tons of oil to that nation and marketed South African minerals.

At the height of the Cold War, Rich´s organization was instrumental in facilitating the Soviet Union´s crucial subsidization of the bankrupt economy of Cuba, where U.S. citizens have been barred from trading since 1963. To avoid the need to ship Soviet oil all the way to Cuba, Rich traders bought Cuba´s share from the Soviet Union, resold in on world markets and arranged for Cuba to import oil from South American sources. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mr. Rich´s organization has been active in refining and marketing Cuba´s raw sugar.

In 1992, the Russian Federation hired the global investigation firm Kroll Associates to examine why the nation´s natural resources and capital were disappearing, the Times reported. Within three months, the firm uncovered evidence tracing some of the drain to Mr. Rich. "Never in the history of Kroll have we found so much money so fast," Mr. Kroll told the Times.

Mr. Rich asserts that he was not bound by U.S. embargoes since 1982, when he renounced his citizenship. In any event, Mr. Rich´s citizenship-related argument may not even apply. A ruling by a federal appeals court, the Journal reported, determined that Mr. Rich nullified his citizenship renunciation by later traveling on his U.S. passport and by subsequently claiming in Swiss court, through his attorneys, that he was a U.S. citizen.

What is indisputable is the fact that Mr. Rich clearly failed to meet the Justice Department´s guideline for pardons, which require a person to have "demonstrated good conduct for a substantial period of time," showing "strong evidence of rehabilitation and worthiness of pardon." Even in the world view of Mr. Clinton, Mr. Rich ought to have been beyond the pale. Then again, a man who would look the other way while gratefully accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars of questionable campaign contributions from the likes of Johnny Chung and Charlie Trie might very well grant a pardon to an unreformed, anti-American rogue like Marc Rich in exchange for $1.5 million in donations from the rogue´s ex-wife.

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