Politics

Rezko Connections: More Reasons Obama Should Worry

Why does Barack Obama need to worry about a previously unknown court filing that revealed, on the second day of jury selection in the trial of Antoin “Tony” Rezko, that a prosecution witness accuses Mr. Rezko to have bribed the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority Minister of Electricity Aiham Alsammarae with $1.5 million for a bogus contract in 2005?

The reason Mr. Obama need worry is that the contract at issue, $50 million for an Illinois-based private security guard enterprise called Companion Security, turns up in Iraqi government court documents in the pursuit of $650 million stolen from the CPA between 2003 and 2006 by Mr. Alsammarae. “There are lots of names of companies in the States that they used to steal from us,” a Baghdad official with full knowledge of the case says of the four-inch-thick file of court documents that convicted Mr. Alsammarae in October 2006; “and here is Companion.”

The reason Mr. Obama need worry is that Mr. Rezko’s accuser, Daniel Mahru, is not only a government witness in this present Rezko trial, but also was the lawyer for the original Companion Security deal and is reported to have pushed another Rezko partner in Companion Security, Daniel T. Frawley, to revive the Companion contract in the spring and summer of 2006 in conversation with both Governor Rod Blagojevich’s office and Senator Barack Obama’s office.

The reason Mr. Obama need worry is that, according to the same court filing, Mr. Mahru has been cooperating with the Federal investigation of Mr. Rezko since December 2005, ten months before Mr. Rezko was indicted.  Mr. Mahru was Mr. Rezko’s partner in the real estate development company Rezmar for 16 years until the two men broke in December 2005. Mr. Mahru then became partners with John Thomas in a troubled Miami real estate deal; and it is well established that Mr. Thomas has been a cooperating federal witness who wore a wire as a mole for the FBI in 2004 and 2005, including in many visits to Mr. Rezko’s offices, where frequent callers included Governor Blagojevich and State Senator Barack Obama. The government states that Mr. Thomas did not record the governor or the state senator.

The reason Mr. Obama need worry is that Mr. Mahru’s accusation means that federal prosecutors were watching what Mr. Rezko was doing – the Rezko-Auchi deal with the 62-acre Chicago site from 2003, the Rezko-Auchi-Alsammarae deal with the CPA Ministry of Electricity plant at Chamchamal, Kurdistan, from 2004, the Rezko-Frawley-Mahru-Alsammarae Companion Security deal from 2005 – while Mr. Rezko was fundraising for Mr. Obama in his successful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and then into Mr. Obama’s first term.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Senator Obama, nor none alleged; however, there is an unsavory tale of how the Chicago political machine works for its friends and supporters, stretching from the South Side of Chicago all the way to Baghdad.

There is also now alleged a direct link, the bribe, between Mr. Rezko and Mr. Alsammarae for the Companion Security deal of 2005. This raises questions about the contract that may be difficult to answer for those who became involved in trying to revive the contract in 2006, such as the offices of Governor Rod Blagojevich and Senator Obama. There are large holes in the narrative, and some inconsistencies. For example, if Mr. Rezko broke with Mr. Mahru in December 2005, does that mean that Mr. Rezko continued to participate in the revival of the Companion Security deal that he had bribed Mr. Alsammarae to obtain? And did the fact that the protracted communication — between Companion Security’s representative, Daniel T. Frawley, and Senator Obama’s Moline office aide, Seamus Ahern – that was broken off sometime in late 2006 have anything to do with the indictment and arrest of Mr. Rezko in October 2006 or the Baghdad conviction for fraud of Mr. Alsammarae in October 2006? Governor Blagojevich’s office and Senator Obama’s office both have stated that they did not know of the connections among Companion, Mr. Frawley and Mr. Rezko. But did they know of the connections among Companion, Mr. Frawley and Mr. Mahru, a long-time partner with Mr. Rezko, who was with Mr. Rezko when the alleged bribe was made? (The bribe was allegedly paid by an escrow account at the esteemed Bryan Cave Law firm, which has a well-established legal practice in the Middle East, including Iraq.)

An additional concern for Senator Obama with regard these tangled criminal allegations against his longtime patron and friend Mr. Rezko, is that while Mr. Rezko is visibly on trial – detained by federal prosecutors as a flight risk since it was revealed that he tried to deceive the court about $3.7 million dollars paid to him by his Rezmar business partner, the London billionaire investor Nadhmi Auchi – is that the alleged recipient of the Companion Security bribe, Aiham Alsammarae, is not available and may be “overseas.”

Mr. Alsammarae’s family told the AP on Tuesday, when the bribe was revealed, that Mr. Alsammarae was overseas and could not be reached for comment. My efforts to reach Mr. Alsammarae for the last week through his Chicago engineering firm, KCI Engineering Consultants, have not been successful either. Messages left on Mr. Alsammarae’s voice mail as recently as Wednesday have not been returned; the mobile phone number Mr. Alsammarae’s message gives in his excellent English is disconnected; a paper message left with the receptionist, who said he was away and would return his calls, has not been answered; the receptionist no longer answers in person and calls to her go to her voice mail.

What is most worrisome about Mr. Alsammarae’s absence is that, while he is alleged in a federal court filing in the Northern District of Illinois to have taken a bribe for a U.S. firm’s contract with the Iraqi CPA, he is also a convicted thief in Iraq with a nine year sentence pending, from which he has been a fugitive since December 2006. There exists an Interpol warrant online for his arrest and return to Iraq. Until Mr. Alsammarae returns to answer questions about his awarding the proven-fraudulent Companion Security contract when he was Minister of Electricity in 2005, this matter will hang over the opinions and perhaps fates of Mr. Rezko, Mr. Mahru, Governor Blagojevich, and Senator Obama. Mr. Alsammarae has information vital to clearing the suspicions, or deepening them, about Chicago political actors involved in a presidential campaign.

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