Angelo Viard says he paid a $20,000 membership fee to join the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in order to take advantage of “marketing” opportunities, but he claims that his decision to appoint Hillary Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham, to his Haiti gold mining company’s advisory board is a mere coincidence.
The relationship between Viard’s company, VCS Mining, and Rodham was revealed earlier this month. But The Washington Post added a new wrinkle to the business dealings on Friday when it published interviews with both men.
Viard appointed Rodham to VCS’s advisory board in October 2013, nine months after Hillary left her secretary of state gig.
After author Peter Schweizer revealed the relationship earlier this month, VCS denied that Rodham’s family ties had anything to do with his hiring.
But The Post’s article revealed that Viard and Rodham met, oddly enough, at a 2012 CGI event.
Viard sought a membership with the organization and forked over its $20,000 membership fee the next year.
“You try to be a member so you can meet people in the same industry,” Viard told The Post.
He said he planned to use membership as a “a pure marketing operation.”
In December 2012, VCS was awarded one of only two “exploitation permits” to mine for gold in Haiti. The third-world country, reeling from a recent earthquake and hurricane, had not awarded mining permits in more than 50 years.
But the deal faced immediate backlash in Haiti. The Senate there complained that VCS would only have to pay a 2.5 percent royalty rate — less than half of the standard. VCS was also granted the option of renewing the mining contract after 25 years. Haitians were also concerned about the mine’s environmental impact.
The mining contracts are currently on hold.
Besides Rodham, VCS’s advisory board had other Clinton ties. Former Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Mex Bellerive served as co-chair alongside Bill Clinton on the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission.
Through their various organizations, the Clintons have focused heavily on Haitian outreach. But their relief work has drawn criticism from many Haitians who feel that the Clintons are trying to exploit the impoverished nation. That outrage was made apparent by recent protests at the Clinton Foundation’s New York City headquarters.
Bellerive joined VCS’s board at the same time as Rodham. He was paid to help lobby Haitian senators and to help navigate the nation’s regulations.
He told The Post that Rodham probably should have reconsidered joining VCS.
“If I was Tony Rodham, I would not have been on the board,” he told The Post. “He knows he did nothing illegal, but it has a high political price for his sister.”
Viard denied that he invited Rodham to join the board in order to exploit his Clinton ties. Instead, he said that Rodham was brought on because of his fundraising abilities and his work with an investment company, Gulf Coast Funds Management.
Viard said he could not remember who introduced him to Rodham. He also said that he had never discussed the Clintons with Rodham and that he never discussed Rodham with the Clintons.
Rodham declined to reveal who introduced him to Viard. He also said that he has never discussed Haiti with the Clintons.
Representatives for both Clintons told The Post that neither knew Viard.
Rodham, a wheeler-dealer who has worked private investigator, repo man and prison guard, also denied that he used the CGI events to drum up business.
Meetings were opportunities “to see old friends,” he said, adding, “but you never know what can happen.”
While Rodham’s alleged role is to drum up new investors, his compensation is tied to stock options which will pay off only if the mine becomes profitable.
As of now, the biggest roadblock does not appear to be an inability to get the mine up and running, but, rather, local opposition.
The potential conflict of interest comes as the Clintons face scrutiny for foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, some of which were made while Hillary served as secretary of state.