An article in The New York Times on Jan. 31, 2008 implied that former U.S. President Bill Clinton used political influence in Kazakhstan to allow Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra to invest in what turned out to be a very profitable uranium venture in return for Giustra's major donations to Clinton's foundation. According to the NYT, Giustra's deal was brokered by ex-president Clinton during a so-called "philanthropic tour" of the Central Asian state in late 2005. A few months later, Clinton's charitable foundation received just over US$30 million from Giustra, followed by a whopping US$ 100 million soon afterwards.
WISE Amsterdam - Frank Giustra, heads a specialist investment bank, Endeavour Financial, which picks opportunities in the minerals sector. Previously he was president and CEO of Yorkton Securities, one of Canada's leading venture capital firms and also a major investor in mining. In late 2004, Mr. Giustra began talking to investors, and put together a company that would eventually be called UrAsia Energy Ltd.
Late on September 6, 2005, a private plane carrying the Canadian mining financier flew to Almaty, Kazakhstan. A fortune awaited: highly coveted deposits of uranium. And Mr. Giustra was in hot pursuit of an exclusive deal to tap them. Unlike more established competitors, Mr. Giustra was a newcomer to uranium mining in Kazakhstan. But what his fledgling company lacked in experience, it made up for in connections. Accompanying Mr. Giustra that day was a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Within two days, corporate records show that Mr. Giustra came up a winner when his company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan's state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom.
A spokesman for Mr. Clinton said the former president knew that Mr. Giustra had mining interests in Kazakhstan but was unaware of "any particular efforts" and did nothing to help. Mr. Giustra said he was there as an "observer only" and there was "no discussion" of the deal with Mr. Nazarbayev or Mr. Clinton. But Moukhtar Dzhakishev, president of Kazatomprom, said in an interview that Mr. Giustra did discuss it, directly with the Kazakh president, and that his friendship with Mr. Clinton "of course made an impression."
Within 48 hours of Mr. Clinton's departure from Almaty on Sept. 7, 2005, Mr. Giustra got his deal. UrAsia signed two memorandums of understanding that paved the way for the company to become partners with Kazatomprom in three mines. The cost to UrAsia was more than US$450 million. Clinton’s foundation has a right to half of any of Giustra’s future minerals earnings.
Records show that Mr. Giustra donated the US$31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation in the months that followed in 2006, but neither he nor a spokesman for Mr. Clinton would say exactly when. In February 2007, Uranium One agreed to pay US$3.1 billion to acquire UrAsia. Mr. Giustra, would be paid US$7.05 per share for a company that just two years earlier was trading at 10 cents per share.
That same month, Mr. Dzhakishev, the Kazatomprom chief, said he travelled to Chappaqua, N.Y., to meet with Mr. Clinton at his home. Mr. Dzhakishev said Mr. Giustra arranged the three-hour meeting. Mr. Dzhakishev said he wanted to discuss Kazakhstan's intention - not publicly known at the time - to buy a 10 percent stake in Westinghouse, a United States supplier of nuclear technology.
Mr. Dzhakishev said he was worried the proposed Westinghouse investment could face Capitol Hill national security concerns that would kill the deal. Clinton first said he had not been lobbying this issue for Mr. Giustra but a few days later had to admit a meeting at his home did take place,.
Now the whole issue has been raised again as Hillary Clinton is to become Secretary of State in the Obama government. While Clinton has agreed not to take any more money from regimes that have a stake in his wife’s policies, he still can accept money from foreign business executives as long as he names them annually. That ensures, Clinton said, there won’t be “even the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
It doesn’t take a cynic to wonder if Secretary Clinton is in an impossible situation. What happens if Madam Secretary goes soft on Kazakhstan? There’s rarely hard evidence but excuse us for asking.
- New York Times, 31 January 2008 / Judicial Watch Blog, 31 January 2008 / The Croesus Chronicles, 12 January 2009 / Bloomberg.com, 15 January 2009 /
- Wikipedia.org, 21 January 2009