Friday, March 23
Bush DoJ Marginalized Jeb's Nigerian Influence-Peddling for Florida GOP Fundraiser
On Tuesday (20 March), George Bush and the Democrat- controlled House and Senate Judiciary Committees began what appears will be an acrimonius and protracted legal battle over issuance of congressional subpoenas for internal White House documents and testimony of senior officials there about their respective roles in the Department of Justice's politicizied dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys.
While George Bush so far has remained above Prosecutor-gate's heated fracas now threatening Alberto Gonzales' tenure as U.S. Attorney General, eight years ago during his presidential campaign the FBI opened an investigation that implicated Florida Governor and First Brother Jeb Bush in an African business venture with a state GOP fundraiser who may have contributed to Bush's gubernatorial campaigns.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, in June 1999 the FBI opened an investigation into Florida Republican fundraiser-committeeman and longtime Bush family friend J. David Eller, owner of Moving Water Industries (MWI), about a multi-million-dollar deal Jeb Bush brokered for Eller in Nigeria at the end of Bush 41's presidency.
From 1989-1993, Bush and Eller co-owned Bush-El, a company that marketed Eller's MWI pumping equipment for flood control and irrigation. The four-year relationship garnered Florida's future governor $650,000--$452,000 of which he received after selling his interest in the company back to Eller. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Eller also donated roughly $128,000 to political campaigns between 1996-1999, a portion of which went to Republican candidates in Florida.
Even before Bush teamed up with Eller, "Nigeria [had] been MWI's key customer since the 1980s... Before Bush joined Eller's team in 1989, MWI received nearly $90-million in" U.S. taxpayer-backed loans to Nigeria.
But at the time Eller partnered with his future governor, MWI was suffering because of Nigeria's delinquent repayments that occasioned "Ex-Im to tighten its loan policies" for the African nation. " But by 1990, MWI was working on persuading Ex-Im officials to back more pumps sales to Nigeria. They approved eight separate loans to Nigeria totaling $74.3-million." The president's son seemed to have had a role in
In 1992, Jeb Bush brokered a $74.3 million deal in which Nigeria purchased giant water pumps and other equipment from Eller's company financed by a U.S. taxpayer-insured loan from through the Export-Import Bank of the United States. In traveling to Nigeria to broker the deal, Bush "received red-carpet treatment" as the president's son.
But by 1999, "Nigeria is about $23-million behind on its payments, and...many of the pumps were unaccounted for or sitting idle."
Former MWI pilot Greg Johnson interviewed at the time by the FBI told the paper "it appeared the investigation focused on how the U.S. loan money was spent." In addition, Johnson "contended that the pump prices were highly inflated and many of them could never be used because of infrastructure problems in Nigeria."
"It was the biggest scam I've ever seen in my life," Johnson told the Times.
Robert Purcell, a former MWI vice president who sued Eller's company, claimed that commissions due to him were improperly diverted to Bush-El and other Eller-related business. Though Purcell settled a suit with Eller in October 1999 in which he agreed never to discussion his settlement, he indicated the FBI inexplicably did not interview him about the Nigerian pump deals.
Jeb Bush said "he never spoke to anybody in the U.S. government about the the Ex-Im loans" nor was interviwed by the FBI. Eller retired, turning his businesses over to his son Dana.
Though the Department of Justice initiated a suit against MWI five years ago to recover the bogus Nigerian loans, the case is still pending. According to a 14 March 2007 Associated Press report appearing in the New Orleans Times-Picayune (archived here) on a MWI pump deal that sent similarly deficient equipment to the city after Hurricane Katrina,
The U.S. Justice Department sued the company in 2002, accusing it of fraudulently helping Nigeria obtain $74 million in taxpayer-backed loans for overpriced and unnecessary water-pump equipment. The case has yet to be resolved.
Is there any chance the House and Senate Judiciary Committees would be interested in having DoJ officials--or perhaps even former Governor Jeb Bush--tell members why U.S. Attorneys in Florida have stalled the probe into he and his partner's Nigerian pump deals?
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