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US Accused Of Romancing Nigerian Businessman With Criminal Record


May 16, (THEWILL) – The United States Government has been accused of being in cahoots with one of Nigeria’s wealthiest men with criminal records, Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian-Lebanese developer. It would be recalled that in May 2019, the US Mission in Nigeria revealed that it had acquired 50,000 square feet of land at the Eko Atlantic, the four-square miles of land in Lagos reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean and features residential and commercial properties, to build the largest consulate in the world. Last month, it laid the foundation of the consulate.

The US mission revealed that it will spend more than half a billion dollars on the gigantic building which was designed by Ennead, a New York architectural firm. It also added that at completion, it will employ 2,500 Nigerian citizens in various roles.

What is more interesting about the consulate is the fact that its location is owned and funded by Chagoury who is well known for being associated with money laundering, fraud etc. Like his Nigerian counterpart, President Muhammadu Buhari, whose mantra, upon assuming office, was war against corruption, which is now being called to question, the relationship between the US and Chagoury has now raised concerns about President Joe Biden’s pledge or lack thereof, to tackle international corruption.

Born in Nigeria to Lebanese immigrants, Chagoury co-founded the Chagoury Group in Lagos in 1971 with tentacles spread in some of the most viable sectors of the economy. Chagoury owns the Eko Hotel & Suites, HITECH Construction Company and ITB Construction Ltd among several others.

The 76-year-old has spent the past 40 years building political connections both in the US and Nigeria. He flourished in the 1990s through his close association with the late Sani Abacha. In 2000, he was convicted by a Swiss court for laundering some of the funds Abacha looted from Nigeria. He agreed to pay a fine of about 1 million Swiss francs (about $600,000) at that time to get his Swiss conviction expunged and handed back $66 million to the Nigerian government but denied knowing the funds were stolen.

Since the 1990s, Chagoury cultivated a friendship with the Clinton family, in part by writing big checks, including an estimated $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, this is despite being a non-citizen forbidden by law to make donations to the campaigns of US politicians. But Chagoury flouted that law with his numerous donations. By the time Hillary Clinton became secretary of State, the relationship was strong enough for one of Bill Clinton’s closest aides to push for Chagoury to get access to top diplomats and thus began the US exploring a deal to build a consulate at the Eko Atlantic city. Between 2012 and 2016, he sought to help fund election campaigns of some US politicians. He donated to the Republicans and was listed as a sponsor for a 2014 art exhibit at the George W Bush Presidential Center. One other campaign he funded which recently came to light was that of Jeff Fortenberry, a US lawmaker, in 2016. Fortenberry was last month convicted of concealing information and making false statements to US federal authorities who were investigating illegal contributions made by Chagoury, a foreign national, to his re-election campaign. Fortenberry resigned from office after his conviction. But in 2019, Chagoury reportedly paid $1.8 million in fines to resolve the investigation when it began. Chagoury currently lives in Paris. He initially made the US his abode, while his younger brother, Ronald held forte in Nigeria. He then shuttled between London, Beirut and Dubai until he finally settled for Paris as his new base after he allegedly fell out of favor with the President Muhammadu Buhari led government after having allegedly, bankrolled the election campaign of then President Goodluck Jonathan who lost the election.