- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2001

Marc Rich, the fugitive financier pardoned on Inauguration Day by President Clinton, personally devised and oversaw an elaborate scheme to funnel to Swiss banks more than $70 million in illegal profits from the resale of crude oil.
According to federal law enforcement authorities and government records, Mr. Rich as part of an extensive plot to evade U.S. taxes and federal energy regulations successfully hid millions of dollars in illegal profits that he and his partner, Pincus Green, also pardoned by Mr. Clinton, accumulated in the 1980s.
The scheme, described by authorities as one of the biggest tax-fraud cases in U.S. history, continued over nine months while the illegal profits were secretly being routed from the United States to banks in Switzerland. Records show the profits had been obtained through the purchase and later resale of $200 million of Iranian oil after President Carter had banned trade with that country.
Authorities said Mr. Rich diverted the cash through a series of phony transactions involving companies he had set up in Delaware, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Australia and Switzerland. The money, on which taxes were never paid, ended up at Marc Rich & Co. in Zug, Switzerland.
"It was Rich who personally laundered those profits off the books in an effort to evade taxes and avoid federal energy regulations," said one law enforcement official, who asked not to be identified. "The evidence is clear. Had Rich ever been brought to trial, he would have been convicted."
Mr. Rich, whose ex-wife, songwriter Denise Rich, gave $1.3 million to the Democratic Party, fled to Switzerland in 1983 after his indictment on charges of evading $48 million in taxes and violating U.S. sanctions by trading with Iran while American hostages were held in that country. Still a Swiss resident, he was accused of tax fraud, racketeering and tax evasion.
Mr. Rich left the country at a time when his attorney, Edward Bennett Williams, who has since died, was attempting to negotiate a settlement in the case including a June 1983 offer to pay a $100 million fine to resolve the matter without his client serving time in prison. Authorities said prosecutors refused the offer because Mr. Rich and Mr. Green were fugitives and had not agreed to return to this country to plead guilty in court.
The Justice Department, which steadfastly declined over a 17-year period to consider pardon requests from Mr. Rich and Mr. Green, maintained at the time of the settlement offer that it was not interested in closing the case without admissions of guilt by the two men.
"Marc Rich and Pincus Green certainly became this country's highest priority white-collar fugitives, and that really didn't change until Inauguration Day 2001," said another law enforcement official, who also requested anonymity.
Federal law enforcement authorities said Mr. Rich initially came to their attention in 1981 after two Texas men pleaded guilty in a scheme involving the illegal resale of crude oil. The two men implicated Mr. Rich in the diversion of millions of dollars in crude-oil profits.
A review by the FBI and federal prosecutors of thousands of documents, along with interviews of more than 100 witnesses, eventually led to the indictment of Mr. Rich and Mr. Green.
The indictment represented the first time the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act was used in a major white-collar fraud prosecution. The law originally was designed to combat organized crime groups accused of operating continuing criminal enterprises.
Mr. Clinton said last week from his new home in Chappaqua, N.Y., that he granted the pardon requested by former Clinton White House Counsel Jack Quinn based on the merits of the case as argued by Mr. Quinn and denied the donations by Mrs. Rich had anything to do with the decision.
"The only thing I would do is ask people to look at the facts. Then I think they will agree with me," Mr. Clinton said in brief comments to CNN.
The contributions by Mrs. Rich began in 1992 and went to Mr. Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic National Committee and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat. She made an emotional plea to Mr. Clinton for the pardon as a friend and an admirer.
"Let no one think exile for life is a light burden. The world we cared about was cut off from us," she said in a letter to the president.
The House Government Reform Committee is investigating the pardon, although it cannot be revoked. The committee said last week it wants to know if Mr. Clinton had an improper motive for the pardon, if law enforcement authorities were consulted before it was granted and if any regulations governing the lobbying of the president were violated.
The committee also is probing what role the Clinton Justice Department, particularly acting Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who was advised of the pardon request by Mr. Quinn in November, took in the decision; what influence Mrs. Rich's donations had on the pardon request; and if new charges can be brought in the case.
Mr. Quinn, who left the White House in 1997, portrayed Mr. Rich and Mr. Green to Mr. Clinton as "extraordinary businessmen and philanthropists who have lived exemplary lives," adding that they were wrongfully indicted. He also noted that the pardons were endorsed by Israeli President Ehud Barak and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
Mr. Rich holds dual citizenship in Switzerland and Israel, and has contributed more than $100 million to charitable, cultural and civic groups, many in Israel. Now 67, he married Gisela Rossi in 1998 and currently lives in Meggen, Switzerland.

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