An international investment guru who has ties to left-wing billionaire George Soros and a number of controversial West African politicians is raising money for President Obama’s re-election campaign.
Stephen Cashin, the chief executive officer at Pan African Capital Group (PACG), an international private equity firm, recently pledged to raise between $200,000 and $500,000 for the Obama campaign, records show.
Cashin and his wife Molly, who have personally donated at least $7,000 to Obama since 2007, hosted a $2,500-per-head campaign fundraiser at their Washington, D.C., home earlier this year.
The multimillionaire son of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, Cashin was born in North Africa and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania from 1979 to 1981. Since then, he has made a lucrative career investing in foreign companies, primarily in Africa.
Cashin founded PACG in 2004, but he has been investing in Africa since 1984, when he began working for Equator Bank, the Africa development unit of the British banking conglomerate Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). Cashin opened a branch office in Nairobi, Kenya, and developed relationships with a number of African central banks and international organizations in the region.
In 1993, Cashin was named Equator Bank’s representative in Washington, D.C., and developed ties with U.S. governmental and financial institutions. He left three years later to cofound and raise money for the Modern Africa Growth and Investment Company (MAGIC), a $100 million-plus private fund backed by tens of millions of dollars worth of debt guarantees from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
Cashin was "integrally involved in identifying and structuring Modern Africa’s investments and management of the portfolio," according to his online biography.
Under Cashin’s leadership, Modern Africa invested in a number of African companies, primarily in the telecom, natural resources, and pharmaceutical industries.
Some of those investments did not pan out.
In 1999 the fund invested $6 million in Warsun Communications for a 70 percent stake in the firm. Cashin was given a place on the company’s board. Warsun filed for bankruptcy in 2002, after which Modern Africa bought the company’s assets and resold them to an Irish firm, DiscoveryTel.
Former Warsun executives sued in 2004, accusing Cashin and Modern Africa of attempted extortion and threatening violence to pressure them into handing over their stakes in the company, and causing the company to improperly file for bankruptcy.
Cashin currently sits on the board of DiscoveryTel.
Another company in which Modern Africa invested, Flamingo Holdings, laid off 1,300 workers in 2002 after purchasing Sulmac Flowers, a leading horticultural firm in Kenya. Two years later, Helios Investments, a George Soros-backed private equity firm, purchased Flamingo Holding.
Modern Africa was party to a joint $40 million investment in Cora de Comstar, a mobile phone company in Côte d'Ivoire, only to shut the firm down in 2003 following repeated raids and harassment of employees by the Ivorian government, which Modern Africa later sued for $54 million.
Cashin’s current venture, PACG, is a member of the Corporate Council on Africa, a trade association focused on developing business ties between the U.S. and Africa. He is a member of numerous such groups, including the Trade Advisory Committee on Africa, the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, and the African Venture Capital Association.
Cashin has close ties to Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. A former Citibank executive, Sirleaf served on Modern Africa’s board before taking office in 2006.
Shortly before her election, Sirleaf partnered with Cashin to purchase the Liberian International Trust Company (ITC), currently known as International Bank (IB). The bank, where Cashin serves on the board of directors, reported the highest profit among the country’s commercial banks in 2010.
Though widely praised among Western elites, Sirleaf has also been criticized for her ties to Charles Taylor, the notorious Liberian warlord who was convicted of war crimes earlier this year.
Sirleaf admitted giving $10,000 to a rebel group led by Taylor in the late 1980s, but insisted the donation was for humanitarian purposes only. Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, created following years of brutal civil war, recommended Sirleaf be banned from public office for 30 years.
In December 2011, Sirleaf was a keynote speaker along with George Soros and Matt Damon, star of We Bought a Zoo, at a gala luncheon for the International Senior Lawyers Project.
Cashin did not return a request for comment.