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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Prison Time for Chicago Man Who Aided Mugabe

CHICAGO - A federal judge ordered a Chicago septuagenarian to spend 15 months in prison for acting as a lobbyist to Zimbabwe's sanctioned president, Robert Mugabe.

"Between late 2008 and early 2010, C. Gregory Turner, met multiple times in Africa with Zimbabwean government officials, including President Mugabe and Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, who were individually subject to U.S. sanctions," the Justice Department said in a statement Tuesday.

The consulting agreement that Turner and an associate signed in November 2008 promised $3.4 million in fees for public-relations work, prosecutors added.

Such lobbying aimed to have sanctions removed by meeting with and attempting to persuade federal and state government officials, including Illinois members of Congress and state legislators, to oppose the sanctions.

Though Turner, now 72, called himself a humanitarian who wanted only to help the people of Zimbabwe, U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo found that he "acted out of greed," the Justice Department said.

Turner's sentence begins on March 13.

A federal jury found him guilty last October of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). He was acquitted of one count each of conspiracy and acting as an agent in the United States of a foreign government without providing prior notification to the attorney general.

Turner's co-defendant, Prince Asiel Ben Israel, 73, of Chicago, was sentenced last August to seven months in prison after pleading guilty to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Prosecutors say President George W. Bush first imposed the sanctions against Mugabe and other Zimbabwe officials for human-rights abuses in 2003.

President Barack Obama has continued the sanctions annually since March 2009. Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party have governed Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980, according to the Justice Department statement.

Though the sanctions neither bar travel to Zimbabwe nor prohibit public officials from meeting with specially designated nationals to discuss removing the sanctions, "individuals may not provide services on behalf of or for the benefit of specially designated nationals," the statement continues.

Prosecutors showed the jury that Turner and his co-defendant told Mugabe, Gono and others about their supposed associations "with many public officials who purportedly had close connections with then President-Elect Obama."

"In early December 2008, Ben Israel's U.S. bank blocked a wire transfer of $89,970 into his account from a Zimbabwe official affiliated with ZANU-PF, and Ben Israel later traveled to Africa and personally withdrew $90,000 from the bank account of that same Zimbabwe official," according to the Justice Department's statement.

As part of their lobbying efforts from 2008 to 2009, Turner and Ben Israel attempted to have Gono and other Zimbabwean officials speak at an issues forum in Washington, D.C., sponsored by a then U.S. representative from California, prosecutors said.

They also assisted "those officials in obtaining visas to travel to the U.S. to attend the event; arranged for President Mugabe to meet with federal and state government officials in New York; lobbied a caucus of state legislators on behalf of Zimbabwean officials; and failed to apply to the Treasury Department for a license to engage in transactions and services on behalf of specially designated nationals."

Obama's transition team apparently was contacted by a member of a delegation that Turner and Ben Israel arranged to travel to Zimbabwe in late 2008.

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