- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 15, 2008

CHICAGO (AP) — The government’s star witness at the fraud trial of Antoin “Tony” Rezko testified yesterday that Sen. Barack Obama and his wife attended a party four years ago at the home of the indicted political fundraiser.

Stuart Levine said the party took place in April 2004 and was held to honor Iraqi-born Nadhmi Auchi, a London-based billionaire who was visiting the United States at the time.

Mr. Rezko, 52, was a major fundraiser for Mr. Obama and Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, and the trial has been closely watched because of Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign. But very little has been said about the senator thus far.

Mr. Rezko is charged with scheming with Mr. Levine to squeeze money management firms wanting state business for kickbacks and split a bribe. Mr. Rezko has denied that he took part in such a scheme.

But his bond was revoked and he was jailed by the trial judge after federal prosecutors discovered a wire transfer of $3.5 million in 2007 to his attorneys from Mr. Auchi by way of a bank in Lebanon. Mr. Rezko had told Judge Amy J. St. Eve that he had no money, no way of getting money and was living off the charity of friends and relatives.

Levine has pleaded guilty to the charges and taken the stand as the government’s star witness in hopes of getting a lenient sentence.

Neither Mr. Blagojevich nor Mr. Obama has been accused of wrongdoing. The Obama campaign has now given to charity nearly $150,000 in contributions received by Mr. Obama’s House and Senate campaigns that came from Mr. Rezko, his employees, his associates and his family.

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said yesterday that the senator “does not recall meeting Nadhmi Auchi at any time or on any occasion,” and that Mr. Obama and his wife do not remember attending the party.

Mr. Auchi’s attorney, Alasdair Pepper, has said his client doesn’t remember meeting Mr. Obama.

Levine said very little about the party at Mr. Rezko’s home or Mr. Obama’s presence there.

He said he had flown Mr. Rezko’s family back from Mexico the same day so that they would be in Chicago in time for the party.

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