WASHINGTON DC —
A Chicago lobbyist, Prince Aisle Ben Israel, has been sentenced to 7 months in prison for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions in late 2008 and 2009 by agreeing to assist President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle in efforts to push America lift economic sanctions against them in exchange for $3.4 million.
Ben Israel will report to prison in November.
His alleged accomplice, C. Gregory Turner, allegedly met multiple times in the United States and in Africa with Zimbabwean government officials, including Mr. Mugabe and then central bank chief, Gideon Gono, and others who were individually subject to U.S. sanctions.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), during these meetings, Ben Israel and Turner allegedly agreed to engage in public relations, political consulting, and lobbying to have sanctions removed by meeting with and attempting to persuade U.S. federal and state government officials, including Illinois members of congress and state legislators, to oppose the sanctions.
The targeted sanctions against Mr. Mugabe and other specially designated individuals in Zimbabwe were initially imposed in 2003 by President George W. Bush and have been continued annually by President Barack Obama, starting in March 2009 through the most recent extension this year.
Ben Israel’s lawyers had asked U.S. district judge Elaine Bucklo for probation, but the judge said the seriousness of the offense warranted some prison time. Federal guidelines had called for up to 16 months behind bars.
According to the FBI statement, the two men were paid an initial payment of $90,000 and three subsequent equal instalments of over a million dollars.
Efforts to get a comment from Mr. Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba, Gono or Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi were futile as they were not answering their mobile phones.
But international relations expert Clifford Mashiri said the whole incident is embarrassing for Harare.