Clintons in spotlight over Haiti gold mining deal
PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti -- A new book, which goes on sale May 5, reveals that Tony Rodham, brother of former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, sat on the board of a company that landed a sweetheart gold mining deal in Haiti after Bill and Hillary Clinton directed millions into post-earthquake relief.
“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich”, by Government Accountability Institute founder Peter Schweizer, describes an unusual nexus of mining interests, relief work in Haiti, and the former US first family, suggesting cronyism, back-room government dealing, questionable ethics and a blurring of the lines between charity and profiteering.
Schweizer's publisher, HarperCollins, said in a press release that the book “reveals how the Clintons went from ‘dead broke’ on leaving the White House to being millionaires, describing in detail the way in which the Clintons habitually blur the lines between politics, philanthropy, and business.”
HarperCollins executive editor Adam Bellow, son of novelist Saul Bellow, said in a statement that “Schweizer’s exhaustively researched book raises serious questions about the sources of the Clintons' sudden wealth, their ethical judgment, and Hillary's fitness for high public office.”
Rodham reportedly sat on the board of VCS Mining when the unlisted Delaware corporation was granted a ‘super-rare’ permit to mine gold in Haiti following the massive earthquake on the impoverished island nation in 2010. The permit was the first to be granted in over 50 years, VCS Mining said in a press release announcing the awarding of the five-year exploitation permit.
The gold mining permit at Morne Bossa was granted the unusual access to Haitian gold deposits, reportedly worth possibly half a billion dollars, in the wake of post-earthquake relief work organized in part by former president Bill Clinton through the Clinton Foundation.
Another VCS board member was Jean-Max Bellerive, who co-chaired the charitable Interim Haiti Recovery Commission with Bill Clinton.
The company has denied any wrongdoing, saying in a press release that Rodham and Bellerive did not become members of the board of directors until October 27, 2013, almost a year after the final development permit for Morne Bossa was issued.
"We never expected or asked Mr Rodham for any special treatment and did not receive any. There was no quid pro quo concerning the Clinton Foundation suggested or offered and VCS has not received any financial assistance from any Clinton entity nor has the company solicited any Clinton entity," the company stated.
The company was, however, silent on the rationale behind Rodham’s appointment to the board or his relevant expertise.
Nevertheless, the terms of Rodham's gold windfall upset members of Haiti's senate when the government's royalties under the deal were pegged at just 2.5 percent, half the customary rate. And VCS mining has an option to renew the permit on the same terms for 25 years.
The Haitian senate passed a resolution on February 20, 2013, essentially calling for a temporary injunction against mining in Haiti, pending examination by a committee and national debate. However, the executive branch of government apparently ignored it.
The VCS deal is not the only Clinton-related activity in Haiti that has raised questions.
The Clinton Foundation lists the Brazilian construction firm Construtora OAS SA (OAS) and the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) as donors that have given it between $1 million and $5 million, which has attracted attention because of the Clinton influence in Haiti, where OAS has been awarded IDB contracts, including one that reportedly involved “excessive costs associated with a road no one needed” and that “had been publicly announced two months before the approval process was complete.”
OAS is currently embroiled in a corruption scandal involving Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras. In November, Brazilian police arrested three top OAS executives for their alleged roles in a bribery scheme involving inflated contracts and kickbacks. OAS denies the allegations.