CHICAGO — Federal charges were unsealed today against two Chicago men for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions in late 2008 and 2009 by agreeing to assist Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and others in an effort to lift economic sanctions against them in exchange for $3.4 million.
The defendants, Prince Asiel Ben Israel and C. Gregory Turner, allegedly met multiple times in the United States and in Africa with Zimbabwean government officials, including President Mugabe and Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, who were individually subject to U.S. sanctions. 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.
Ben Israel, 72, appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys in U.S. District Court in Chicago, and was released on his own recognizance with certain conditions. Turner, 71, also known as “Greg Turner,” of Chicago, is believed to be living in Israel and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Both defendants were charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) in a criminal complaint filed last month and unsealed today.
According to the charges, Ben Israel and Turner began having discussions with Mugabe, Gono, and other ZANU-PF leaders in 2008 regarding the influence Ben Israel and Turner could wield to have the sanctions removed. The defendants discussed with Mugabe, Gono, and others their association with many public officials who purportedly had close connections with then President-Elect Obama. Ben Israel and Turner allegedly violated IEEPA by engaging in public relations, political consulting, and lobbying efforts on behalf of President Mugabe and other Zimbabwe officials pursuant to a Nov. 26, 2008, “Consulting Agreement” that called for an initial payment of $90,000 and three subsequent equal installments of $1,105,000. In early December 2008, Ben Israel’s U.S. bank blocked a wire transfer of $89,970 into his account from a Zimbabwe official affiliated with ZANU-PF.
Violating IEEPA carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.