U.S. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. / REUTERS

The FBI prepared a sting operation against Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in the 1990s when he was Speaker of the House, but called it off on instructions from then- FBI director Louis Freeh.

The sting revolved around allegations that Gingrich’s former wife, Marianne, had solicited a $10 million payoff from a convicted felon, Sarkis Soghanalian. In exchange, she allegedly promised to deliver Gingrich’s support in lifting the arms embargo against Iraq.

The arms merchant needed the embargo lifted in order to collect millions of dollars the Iraqi government owed him for weapons it had purchased.

Marianne Gingrich acknowledged meeting Soghanalian in Paris, but said she sought the $10 million for her employer at the time, the Israel Export Development Corporation, not her husband, and she denied promising her husband would push for any policy change.

Soghanalian, unbeknownst to Ms. Gingrich, was an FBI informant, and told agents about his contacts with her. He has since died.

“For several years, FBI agents instructed Soghanalian to get beyond the men who claimed to have ties to Gingrich and insist upon meeting with Gingrich and his former wife directly to prove that they could deliver the Speaker,” the not-for-profit investigative news website, www.dcbureau.org, reports.

FBI headquarters called off the investigation just before the arms dealer was to meet Gingrich and his ex-wife at a Miami Beach fundraiser.  “Washington ordered the FBI in Miami not to secretly tape record the fundraiser and to stop Soghanalian from attending.”

Freeh did not comment for the article.

Sweep to Newt Gingrich, Marianne and the arms dealer: a buried FBI investigation

The thickening scandal surrounding world soccer has not spared China, where long-awaited trials on corruption in Chinese professional soccer opened Monday in the northeast city of Tieling.

The former director of the Chinese Football Association’s referee committee, Zhang Jianqiang, faces charges of taking bribes to throw decisions, in the opening chapter of a broad scandal that involves allegations of gambling, game-fixing and referees on the take.

Other officials detained in the investigation, which has gone on for more than two years now, include two former vice presidents of the Chinese Football Association, or CFA.

Sweep to Chief of soccer referees stands trial for corruption

Diamonds in the rough, Zimbabwe. / REUTERS

Zimbabwe is awash in diamonds, and yet its diamond processors are unemployed.

That is the strange consequence of corruption.

As reported on this site and elsewhere, Robert Mugabe and his cronies have largely turned the country’s diamond mines to their personal and political benefit, and appear to have created a parallel track for mining, processing and selling Zimbabwe’s vast diamond resources out of public oversight.

Add to the billions of dollars in lost national revenues each year one more cost. Steven Muchenje, director of the Zimbabwe Diamond Education College, said the practice of exporting rough diamonds is depriving Zimbabweans of jobs cutting, polishing and valuing those stones, and the chance to develop the diamond-processing sector.

He notes that Belgium, which does not have a single diamond mine, employs 30,000 people in the diamond industry, which is valued at $39 billion a year. Zimbabwe–home to some of world’s richest diamond mines–earns only $2 billion.

Exporting rough diamonds deprives Zimbabwe of 80 percent of the diamond’s value, Muchenje noted.

It also, not incidentally, makes it impossible for Zimbabweans to gauge the production and value of their country’s most important natural resource.

Sweep to Zimbabwe: Exporting rough diamonds, a major setback

 

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