WASHINGTON DC —
Two United States congressmen have been tied to Americans who reportedly struck a $3.4 million deal with President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle to help in the lifting of targeted sanctions imposed by the George Bush administration following disputed elections and human rights violations.
The Chicago Tribune has identified the two congressmen named in recently unsealed federal court papers as U.S. Representatives Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, both Chicago Democrats.
The 56-page criminal complaint described in detail how the accused Prince Ben Israel and C. Gregory Turner allegedly enlisted the support of a "State Senator A," who hoped that the election of (President Barack) Obama would cause the U.S. to take a fresh look at Zimbabwe.
According to the newspaper, which quoted the federal complaint sheet, that same state senator wrote in a 2009 letter that he had made a "commitment" to (President) Mugabe and could use his leadership position with the National Black Caucus of State Legislators to organize a delegation to travel to Zimbabwe and fight for the removal of the sanctions.
The paper further says records show that state Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, chairs the international committee of that caucus. It indicated that his attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, said he had not seen the complaint and had no comment.
Ben Israel and Turner were successful in arranging for State Senator A and several other lawmakers to meet with Mugabe and other top Zimbabwean officials during several trips there in 2008 and 2009, according to the charges.
The charges also described the two Chicago congressmen as sponsors of a failed 2010 House resolution to end the Zimbabwe sanctions. Congressional records show that the only Illinois congressmen to sponsor that bill were Davis and Rush.
Reached by Chicago Tribune, Davis said he has known the two defendants for "at least 40 years or more" but would not comment on whether he traveled to Zimbabwe or lobbied for lifting the sanctions. "I don't know enough about what the situation is," Davis said.
Israel and Turner, are charged with violating federal law by lobbying on behalf of Zimbabwe's longtime president whose government has been the target of U.S. economic sanctions since 2003.
The defendants face a maximum 20 years in prison and a million dollar fine if convicted for violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.