US

Hillary Clinton Ties Emerge In Panama Papers

A billionaire and a Russia-controlled bank named in the Panama Papers have links to Hillary Clinton through two separate lobbying efforts — one through a Clinton-connected lobbying firm and another through Sidney Blumenthal.

Clinton is linked to Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, through Podesta Group, a lobbying firm co-founded by Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and his brother, Tony Podesta, a major Clinton bundler.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, which first reported the connection, Sberbank registered with the Podesta Group last month to lobby on issues related to economic sanctions against Russia and on stock and bond trading for its U.S. clients.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Georgian billionaire and former prime minister of the Caucasus state, is also named in the Panama Papers, which is believed to be the largest leaks of financial documents in history. A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ivanishvili appeared in the Hillary Clinton email dump through her longtime friend Sidney Blumenthal.

Blumenthal, who played a middle-man role for Clinton, passed along a memo from Ivanishvili ahead of the 2012 Georgian elections. Ivanishvili was head of the Georgian Dream party, which successfully ousted then-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a U.S. ally.

Ivanishvili served as prime minister from Oct. 2012 through Nov. 2013.

Clinton is not implicated in the Panama Papers, which pertain to offshore bank accounts set up by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. But the Democratic presidential candidate’s connections to two subjects named in the leaked documents show the vastness and depth of her international relationships. The revelation also comes as Clinton continues to receive criticism for her financial relationships with shady businessmen through her family charity, the Clinton Foundation.

As the Free Beacon notes, Sberbank is named in a report from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which was provided access to documents from the Panama Papers leak.

Sberbank and a related company called Troika Dialog are linked to companies that members of Putin’s inner circle use to hide assets. Troika Dialog, which is based in the Cayman Islands, is listed with Sberbank on its lobbying registration form with the Podesta Group.

Ivanishvili is named in a separate report on the Panama Papers published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

Worth an estimated $4.8 billion, Ivanishvili was required under Georgian law to disclose all of his financial assets as prime minister. But he kept his control of an entity called Lynden Management off of those disclosures. According to documents reviewed by OCCRP, Ivanishvili stalled for nearly four years to respond to Mossack Fonseca’s request that he provide his passport to verify his address.

Ivanishvili is also at the center of a lobbying effort aimed at Clinton.

As the website Gawker reported last year, on Sept. 3, 2012, Blumenthal emailed his friend Hillary Clinton memos written by Ivanishvili and John Kornblum, an attorney who served as Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Germany.

According to Blumenthal’s email, Kornblum was “working with the political party in Georgia opposing Saakashvili.”

Kornblum made the case that the U.S. should consider distancing itself from Saakashvili. He also asserted that the regime was cracking down on opposition parties, such as the Ivanishvili-controlled Georgian Dream coalition.

“There is a real chance Saakashvili could lose,” Kornblum wrote. “He is doing everything possible to avoid that indignity, including harassing Georgian Dream in ways described in the letters.”

“If Saakshvili clearly steals the election, there could be public discontent, violence and maybe a ‘wag the dog’ scenario with Russia,” he added.

In a memo passed to Blumenthal through Kornblum, Ivanishvili urged Clinton to support Georgian Dream.

“The first step back to the path of democracy must be an open and fair election that offers the hope of a peaceful transfer of power,” Ivanishvili wrote. “Recent polls suggest that Georgian Dream can make this happen, if the authorities give democracy a chance.”

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It is unclear if Blumenthal was paid for connecting Kornblum and Ivanishvili to Clinton. It is also unclear whether Ivanishvili directed Kornblum or Blumenthal to reach out to Clinton. Additionally, it is unclear how Clinton responded to the memos.

But as Gawker reported, attorneys with expertise in the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which governs foreign lobbying, say that Blumenthal and Kornblum should have registered as lobbyists.

Blumenthal frequently emailed Clinton with items ranging from political gossip to in-depth intelligence briefings gleaned from his deep reservoir of intelligence community sources. He lobbied heavily on behalf of a company called Osprey Global Solutions, which sought contracts in post-Gaddafi Libya.

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