and the Rich Women
By JEFFREY ST.
Despite her campaign's
ongoing slurs against Bill Richardson, the nation's only Hispanic
governor, Hillary Clinton probably feels like she has Puerto
Rico, the final primary, in the bank. Those delegates were sown
up nine years ago on August 16, 1999, when Bill Clinton issued
commutations for 16 members of the FALN Puerto Rican nationalist
group serving long sentences for robbery, bombings and sedition.
That rare act of humanitarian intervention endeared the Clintons
to many Puerto Ricans, obviating the sins committed by the
administration at Vieques Island, which had been turned into a
toxic bombing ground.
But if Hillary wants to
claim credit for the FALN pardons (a strategic decision at the
time, geared to helping her win a US senate seat in New York),
she should also own up to her role in a much more problematic
case, the midnight pardon of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich.
Hillary has never
addressed her role in the Rich pardon. In fact, she's rarely been
asked her opinion on the free pass given to one of the world's
most wanted fugitives, a man who violated embargoes against Iran
and South Africa and fled the country rather than face trial in
what was billed as "the biggest tax evasion case in
history." The senator has variously said that she was
"unaware" of the decision and "surprised" by
it. When pressed, she merely cackles.
Even though 300 pages of
core documents relating to the pardon decision remain under seal
at the Clinton Library, a review of the available record tells a
much different story.¬ In fact, the Rich legal team viewed
Hillary as a secret weapon, and as one door after another closed
on their search for a pardon they focused more and more on
invoking what Rich lawyer Robert Fink called the "HRC
Who is Marc Rich? And
why did he need a presidential pardon?
Born in Belgium to
Jewish parents, Marc Rich moved with his family to the United
States to escape Hitler. Young Marc soon went to work for a
commodity firm in New York called Phillip Bros, later acquired by
Salomon Brothers. He soon made his mark as an oil trader and,
along with his friend Pincus "Pinky" Green, he is
credited with inventing spot market trading in oil, ferrous
metals and sugar. Billions flowed into the firm, and the European
press took to calling Rich "the Aluminum Finger."
But Rich and
"Pinky" Green felt underappreciated and underpaid. They
bolted the firm, and Rich angrily vowed to "grind Phillip
Bros. into oblivion." In 1974, the pair started their own
holding company, eventually known as the Marc Rich Group, and
began making oil deals with Iran, Iraq and wildcatters in Texas.
He and Pinky were soon billionaires and big shots in the global
Around this time, Rich
courted a buxom young Jewish singer/songwriter from Worchester,
Massachusetts, named Denise. He whisked her off to his seaside
villa in Marbella, Spain, where the couple were¬ married
and rapidly assumed the life of international jet-setters and art
collectors. It is said that Rich owns one of the largest private
collections of Picasso paintings and sculptures in the world.
Rich began referring to himself as a "business
machine." The years passed. Denise bore Rich three daughters
and honed her songwriting skills on transcontinental flights on
the family's private jet. Saccharine pop flowed off her micro
recorder , including minor hit "Frankie." The bank
Then in 1983 crisis hit
the Rich family. The U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern
District of New York notified Rich and Pinky that they were under
investigation for fraud, illegal oil deals with Iran and the
apartheid regime in South Africa, and tax evasion. Documents were
subpoenaed. Indictments were in the works. Rich hired D.C.
heavy-hitter Edward Bennett Williams to fend off assaults of a
vicious young prosecutor ‚ none other than Rudy
When Giuliani requested
that Pinkyand Rich turn over their passports and post a large
bond, Williams acted indignant and personally avowed to the
federal judge overseeing the case that his client was not a
flight risk. Two days later, Pinky and Rich were on a plane bound
for Europe. As expected, the indictments came: a 65-count charge
alleging fraud, trading with the enemy (Iran), and tax evasion.
resigned in a huff, and Rich found a succession of new lawyers
over the next decade, including former Nixon attorney Leonard
Garment and Lewis Scooter Libby, who would later find refuge in
the awesome power of presidential privilege.
Rich's escape from
Giuliani's clutches is the stuff of spy novels, made even more
thrilling due to the fact that he almost certainly had several
moles inside Giuliani's office, U.S. law enforcement and
intelligence agencies who kept him apprised of the schemes to nab
him.¬ He evaded the U.S. marshals on his tail at Heathrow
Airport in England, and then later his plane bound for Finland
mysteriously turned at the last moment for Sweden, once again
narrowly avoiding landing in custody. Years later, Rich would
also escape his captors in Germany and Jamaica, courtesy of
anonymous tips to the fugitive billionaire.
The tycoon's eventual
passage to safe harbor in Switzerland went from Sweden through
East Germany, aided by the notorious Wolfgang Vogel, an East
German lawyer who specialized in shuttling spies into and out of
Rich dropped millions at
every stop, especially in Switzerland. He and "Pinky"
Green choose the town of Zuq to establish their new headquarters
in a blueberry-colored office tower. Entreaties were made to
Swiss officials, and money liberally dispensed.
"He bought Swiss
loyalty," says Shawn Tulley, a financial crimes reporter forFortune magazine, who
covered the Rich case. "He really put out the charm and the
money." When the U.S. Marshals finally tracked Rich down in
Switzerland, they immediately petitioned the Swiss government for
his extradition. Request denied. As far as the Swiss were
concerned, financial crimes, especially involving taxation, were
trifling concerns unworthy of governmental consideration.
When the Swiss refused
to turn Rich over, the Marshals tried to kidnap the world's most
famous tax evader under the extraordinary rendition program,
which has since become a staple of the Bush regime.
The Marshals set up a
team outside of Rich's mansion and his offices. But again, there
was a fortuitous leak. The Swiss police approached the would-be
kidnappers and told them to shut down their operation or they
would be the ones sitting in jail. The Marshals retreated. Rich
had found his sanctuary. He summoned Denise and the children to
join him in sprawling mansion near Lucerne and then renounced his
U.S. citizenship. This freed him from the nagging obligation of
ever again having to worry about entanglements with the IRS over
tax obligations. But it also threw the validity of his eventual
pardon into question.
The exile of Marc Rich
was not an idle one. Indeed, from 1983 to 1996 Rich's fortune
ballooned from a mere billion dollars to more than $7 billion. He
and Pinky struck oil deals in Russia and Bulgaria (prompting
accusations of fraud and thievery in both countries) and mining
operations in central Asia, Africa and South America. Along the
way, he sharpened the art of the political bribe. Rudy Giuliani
alleges that during this period Rich tried to bribe the state of
New York, offering millions to the State Department of Education
in exchange for a withdrawal of the pending charges.
In order to buy alumina
from the new leftist government of Jamaica for less than half the
market price, Rich wired $50 million to Jamaican President
Michael Manley in an hour of acute distress for the embattled
Even as he neared the
top of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, Rich also didn't see any
reason to abandon his operations in the United States. In fact,
his hand is seen orchestrating one of the most savage crackdowns
on organized labor in recent decades. In 1989, Rich secretly
acquired the controlling interest in a West Virginia-based
company called Ravenswood Aluminum.. Ravenswood was embroiled in
a tumultuous battle between management and workers at the plant
when in 1990, under Rich's long-distance orders, the company
tried to bust the union. On a bitterly cold night, a private
security force arrived at the plant, set up armed guards at the
gates and surveillance cameras around the perimeter of the
facility, and locked out 1,700 workers, all members of the
Steelworkers Union. Over the ensuing weeks, the armed guards
repeatedly clashed with picketing union members, fogging the air
with tear gas and beating skulls with their police clubs. Soon
Rich made the call to hire permanent replacement workers, for
less pay and reduced benefits. The lockout went on for two more
years. "It was a brutal affair," says Dan Stidham,
president of the Ravenswood union local¬ at the time of
the lockout. "I'm still pretty upset with Clinton for
pardoning that guy after all we went through."
Meanwhile, back in
Lucerne, Rich was beginning to cultivate the Israeli government.
He established the Rich Foundation in Tel Aviv, which would
distribute more than $100 million to Israeli causes over the next
decade. To oversee the foundation, Rich selected a former
high-ranking Mossad official named Avner Azulay, whose ties to
the intelligence agency probably never totally evaporated. Azulay
was a useful conduit to Israel's political elite. He was close to
Yitzak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert. A decade
later, Azulay would play a key role in securing Rich's pardon
from the Clintons.
Through Azulay, Rich
offered his services to the Israeli government, especially the
Mossad. Indeed, according to letters from Israeli officials, Rich
played the role of a "Say-Ayon," or unpaid asset of the
Mossad. In fact, Rich was subsidizing Israeli intelligence
operations. He financed numerous covert missions and allowed
Mossad operatives to work covertly in his offices around the
With experience as an
international spook now added to his C.V., Rich reached out
through intermediaries to both the FBI and the CIA. He offered
his services to both agencies in exchange for dropping the
charges against him. The CIA's response is unknown, but the FBI
was intrigued and sent the request to the Justice Department,
where it was quashed.
Around this time, Rich
launched into a public liaison with a glamorous Italian widow by
the name of Gisela Rossi. He flaunted the affair in front of
Denise, the tycoon's wife who had followed him into his luxurious
life on the lam. Denise filed for divorce and prepared to return
to New York. But Rich, whose net worth now neared $10 billion,
was offering her only a tiny settlement. So Denise took matters
into her own hands. She removed a Van Gogh painting from the wall
of their palace in Lucerne and warned her estranged husband that
unless he ponied up more money, she would take the masterpiece
with her. Ultimately, Rich offered her a settlement of $200
million. Although the amount is far less than she would have
gotten in most U.S. courts, Denise signed the papers and took her
daughters with her back to Manhattan.
Rossi and Rich soon
married and now divide their time between St. Moritz and
A year after the Rich's
divorce, their oldest daughter, Gabriella, was diagnosed with a
rare and terminal form of leukemia. She died within the year.
Marc Rich made no effort to visit Gabriella in her final months.
Denise Rich seethed.
The machinations to
secure a pardon from Bill Clinton for Marc Rich began in earnest
in the fall of 1998, when Rich's public relations flack in the
U..S., Gershon Kekst, squirmed his way into a seat next to Eric
Holder, the number two in the Clinton Justice Department, at big
D.C. party thrown by Daimler/Chrysler. Without mentioning Rich by
name, Kekst asked Holder how a man of considerable resources
might be relieved of the burden of being "unproperly
indicted by an overzealous prosecutor."
Holder took a sip of
wine and told Kekst that such a man would need to hire a D.C..
lawyer who knows the ropes and has deep connections inside the
Clinton administration. "He comes to me and we work it
out," confided Holder.
"Can you recommend
such a person?" Kekst inquired.
Holder pointed to a man
sitting at a nearby table. "There's Jack Quinn," Holder
whispered. "He's a perfect example."
Kekst dutifully wrote
down Quinn's name, did some research on the former lawyer for the
Clintons, and transmitted the joyful news to the Rich camp.
There is every
indication that Holder was trying to drum up business for Quinn,
a partner at the powerhouse firm of Arnold and Porter, as well as
a top advisor for Al Gore's presidential campaign. Holder was
desperate to have Quinn's backing in his doomed bid to become
Back in Switzerland,
Rich ordered up a dossier on Quinn. His initial response was not
favorable. Rich believed Quinn to be merely a "pretty
boy" with little experience and "more connections than
clout." He decided to stick with Scooter Libby's team. But
Scooter, who had represented Rich since 1985, produced no
results, and in the summer of 1999, with the clock ticking down
on Clinton time, the desperate tycoon reached out to Jack Quinn.
Quinn formally became
Rich's lawyer on July 21, 1999. His fees were stiff: an initial
retainer of $355,000, plus a minimum payment of $55,000 each
month. Quinn's firm, Arnold and Porter, reserved the right to
represent clients suing Rich on matters. Rich consented.
intimated to the Rich team that securing the pardon would be a
relatively easy matter. A few calls to his good friend Holder,
and that would be that. Quinn was wrong. When Holder contacted
the prosecutors in Manhattan about the Rich case, they vowed to
oppose any deal until Rich returned to the U.S. and entered a
plea in the case. Rich refused.
From that point on, the
Rich team, including his sympathizers inside the Clinton
administration, hid their maneuvers from federal
prosecutors.¬ After discussions with White House aides
Bruce Lindsey and Beth Nolan, Quinn sent out an email calling for
a new approach: "It's time to move on the GOI [Government of
Israel] front but we have to get the calls initiated over
Letters and calls soon
flooded the White House from Israeli officials and high profile
Jews, including Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and Elie
Weisel. In one way or another, each had received benefits from
Rich or one of his foundations. A problem soon developed. When
presented the opportunity to discuss presidential pardons with
Clinton, many of these leaders, anxious perhaps to legitimize
Israeli penetration of the U.S. government, choose to plead the
case of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard instead of Rich.
comically for a solution. Quinn sends an urgent email to Robert
Fink, Rich's longtime New York lawyer.
From: Jack Quinn. To:
Fink, Robert, NY.
checking email; I don't have access here to avner's email
address, or marc's, and wonder if you can inquire whether there
is a possibility of persuading Mrs Rabin to make a call to POTUS
[President of the United States].He had a deep affection for her
Fink leaps into action
with an email to Avner Azulay, the former Mossad officer, now
heading the Rich Foundation in Tel Aviv.
From: Fink, Robert, NY.
Sent: Saturday. To: Avner Azulay
"... Jack asks if
you could get Leah Rabin to call the President; Jack said he was
a real big supporter of her husband‚¶"
Azulay writes back with
From: Avner. To: Fink,
"Bob, having Leah
Rabin call is not a bad idea. The problem is how do we contact
her? She died last November ... ''
secures a letter and congenial phone call to Clinton from Rabin's
daughter, who doesn't really know Rich. Their best hopes seem to
be evaporating. Perhaps Rich was right about Quinn, after all.
First Catch Your
The scene shifts to a
crowded restaurant in Paris. It's Valentine's Day. Two men are
having dinner and drinking wine. They know each other well. One
man has just received a $100,000 contribution from the other
man's boss. The man on the receiving end of the money is Abe
Foxman, and the financial gift was for his group the
Anti-Defamation League. The man picking up the hefty dinner tab
is Avner Azulay ‚ though Marc Rich will soon
Rich has one last shot,
Foxman advises. They need to get directly to Bill and Hillary.
And the key to unlocking the inner doors of the White House,
Foxman told Azulay, is Denise Rich. Foxman confided that he and
Denise had flown together on Air Force II to the funeral of
There was just one problem. Denise Rich still loathed her
Entreaties are made to Denise, now a New York socialite and
successful songwriter, by Quinn and others on the Rich teams.
Three times¬ "Denise Rich declines to come to the
rescue of her former husband.
Then suddenly, in
November 2000, she agrees to help. What made her change her mind?
That remains open to
speculation, but given Marc Rich's history and Denise's view that
she was shortchanged in the divorce, it may well have involved a
financial offering. This much is known. On November 16, Avner
Azulay flies to New York and takes Denise to dinner. He pleads
for her to back Rich's pardon to her friends Bill and Hillary.
Two days later Denise consents.
Denise calls her close
friend Beth Dozoretz for help in the best way to handle the
matter. Another rich Manhattan socialite, Dozoretz had been the
finance chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Dozoretz had contributed more than $1 million to Democratic
coffers. Bill Clinton was the godfather of her daughter.
Dozoretz who, like
Denise Rich, would later plead the Fifth at a Senate hearing in
the matter, helped Rich craft her strategy. Almost immediately, a
check for $25,000 was sent from Denise Rich's account to the DNC.
This was soon followed by Denise Rich's first letter to the
Clintons, imploring them to pardon her ex-husband. Dozoretz also
helped Rich bundle a $450,000 contribution to the Clinton library
fund. (A Democratic fundraiser told the New York Times in 2001 that
Denise had also pledged another million in four installments over
the next two years. This figure was disputed by Denise Rich. But
the donor lists to the Clinton Foundation are kept secret.) In
all, Denise Rich made at least $1.1 million in contributions to
Democratic causes, including $70,000 to Hillary's Senate campaign
and PACs, and at least $450,000 to the Clinton foundation.
For her part, Dozoretz
kicked in another million of her own money to the fund. This is
the same library that now refuses to release more than 300 pages
of Clinton's records relating to the pardon. She later lavished
gifts on the Clintons as they left the White House, including
antique furniture for the new home and golf clubs for Bill.
As Dozoretz and Denise
Rich plotted their strategy, Quinn and Azulay sought another
opening. In a December 19, 2000, email to Quinn, Azulay¬
emphasizes the importance of Hillary's role in the affair. She
has just been elected senator from New York, where Rich was
indicted. If there was to be fallout, it might backfire on
Hillary. She would need reassurance. Dozoretz and Denise would
provide financial aid, but she might also need political cover..
Azulay recommends Abraham Burg, former speaker of the Knesset.
"Burg is on very friendly terms with Hilary (sic) and knows
POTUS from previous contacts."
The next night there's a
party at the White House honoring Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones
and Maya Angelou. Dozoretz and Denise are invited, and Denise
lands a plum seat at the presidential table. Denise is wearing a
burgundy ball gown trimmed in fox fur. She eats little and talks
less. After dinner, Denise espies Bill having an intimate
conversation with Streisand. She rushes across the room, cuts in
on Babs and whisks Bill away. She makes an impassioned plea for
the ex-husband , who had humiliated her, stuffs a letter into
Bill's hand and whispers, "I could not bear it were I to
learn you did not see my letter."
When Denise arrives home, she makes a call to Lucerne. It's the
first time she has talked to Marc Rich since the divorce. She
describes her meeting with Clinton. Her friends say she ended the
conversation by telling Rich: "You owe me."
A week later the Rich
team is getting antsy. There's still been no word on how Hillary
feels. Rich's New York attorney Robert Fink sends an email to
Quinn: "Of all the options we discussed, the only one that
seems to have real potential for making a difference is the
Quinn, Dozoretz, Burg
and, perhaps, Denise call Hillary's people. They are told that
the senator needs cover. According to a December 26 email from
Azulay titled "Chuck Schumer": "Hillary shall feel
more at ease if she is joined by her elder sen. of NY, who also
represents the Jewish population."
Gershon Kekst leaps at
the opportunity, firing an email to Fink looking for Schumer's
"Can Quinn tell us
who is close enough to lean on Schumer?? I am willing to call him
but have no real clout. Jack might be able to tell us who the top
contributors are ‚¶ maybe Bernard Schwartz??"
Bernard Schwartz was a
good guess. The former CEO of Loral (a Friend of Bill and Marc
Rich) was a top DNC contributor and had lavished money on both
Schumer and Hillary. Schwartz also donated $1 million to the
Clinton library fund.
But Quinn had been
around Washington a long time. He knew enough not to trust
Schumer, a famous media hog who was already showing signs of
being jealous of the attention Hillary was getting. Quinn notes:
"I have to believe that the contact with HRC can happen w/o
him after all, we are not looking for a public show of support
Calls continue to flood
the Clinton White House. The King of Spain. Sandy Berger. Ehud
Meanwhile, Denise and
Beth are skiing in Aspen. Beth's phone rings. It's Bill Clinton.
Clinton tells Dozoretz, "I want to do it and am trying to
get around the White House counsel." Keep praying, Bill told
the women. He also let them know that Michael Milken wasn't
getting a pardon.
A few days later, the
two women are back in Washington. It's now January 19, 2001. Jack
Quinn is sitting at a board meeting of Fanny Mae. He quietly
types a message to Denise on his Blackberry. (It's not known if
he bills both clients for this hour of his time.) The text
message urges Denise to make one last call to Bill. Quinn tells
her not to "argue merits" but merely to explain to
Clinton that "it is important to me personally."
Though both women will
later dispute it, the Secret Service logs show that the next
afternoon at 5:30, Beth and Denise were admitted to the private
quarters of the White House. This was Denise's nineteenth visit
to the White House. Beth had visited the White House 76 times in
merely the last two years. The logs do not record when the women
departed. This is the encounter that appears to have consummated
At 2:30 in the morning
on January 20, Clinton gets a call from his National Security
Advisor. Marc Rich's name has surfaced in an intelligence file in
connection with an international arms smuggling network. Clinton
calls Quinn. Quinn says the allegations are bogus. Bill turns to
his staff, all of whom oppose the pardon that is now being
signed. "Take Jack's word," Clinton snapped. Later
Clinton will claim to have been "sleep deprived" when
he signed the pardon, an excuse that his wife would resurrect to
explain her fabulation of her landing under sniper fire in
Marc Rich bought his
pardon and now flies freely in his private jet, while Leonard
Peltier languishes in prison with no hope of release. That sums
Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It
Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and Grand Theft Pentagon. His newest book, Born Under a Bad Sky, is just out from AK
Press / CounterPunch books. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.¬
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