FBI Uncovered Russian Bribery Plot Before Obama Administration Approved Controversial Nuclear Deal with Moscow
October 17th, 2017
Via: The Hill:
Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putinâ€™s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.
Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.
They also obtained an eyewitness account â€” backed by documents â€” indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clintonâ€™s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.
The racketeering scheme was conducted â€œwith the consent of higher level officialsâ€� in Russia who â€œshared the proceedsâ€� from the kickbacks, one agent declared in an affidavit years later.
Rather than bring immediate charges in 2010, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefitting Putinâ€™s commercial nuclear ambitions.
The first decision occurred in October 2010, when the State Department and government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the partial sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, giving Moscow control of more than 20 percent of Americaâ€™s uranium supply.
When this sale was used by Trump on the campaign trail last year, Hillary Clintonâ€™s spokesman said she was not involved in the committee review and noted the State Department official who handled it said she â€œnever intervened … on any [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] matter.â€�
In 2011, the administration gave approval for Rosatomâ€™s Tenex subsidiary to sell commercial uranium to U.S. nuclear power plants in a partnership with the United States Enrichment Corp. Before then, Tenex had been limited to selling U.S. nuclear power plants reprocessed uranium recovered from dismantled Soviet nuclear weapons under the 1990s Megatons to Megawatts peace program.
â€œThe Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,â€� a person who worked on the case told The Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by U.S. or Russian officials.
The Obama administrationâ€™s decision to approve Rosatomâ€™s purchase of Uranium One has been a source of political controversy since 2015.
Thatâ€™s when conservative author Peter Schweitzer and The New York Times documented how Bill Clinton collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in Russian speaking fees and his charitable foundation collected millions in donations from parties interested in the deal while Hillary Clinton presided on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
The Obama administration and the Clintons defended their actions at the time, insisting there was no evidence that any Russians or donors engaged in wrongdoing and there was no national security reason for any member of the committee to oppose the Uranium One deal.
But FBI, Energy Department and court documents reviewed by The Hill show the FBI in fact had gathered substantial evidence well before the committeeâ€™s decision that Vadim Mikerin â€” the main Russian overseeing Putinâ€™s nuclear expansion inside the United States â€” was engaged in wrongdoing starting in 2009.
Then-Attorney General Eric Holder was among the Obama administration officials joining Hillary Clinton on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States at the time the Uranium One deal was approved. Multiple current and former government officials told The Hill they did not know whether the FBI or DOJ ever alerted committee members to the criminal activity they uncovered.
Spokesmen for Holder and Clinton did not return calls seeking comment. The Justice Department also didnâ€™t comment.
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