Clinton Foundation Donor Ensnared in Kickbacks Probe

Abraaj Group co-sponsored Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, secured U.S. government business (updated)

Bill and Hillary Clinton
Bill and Hillary Clinton / AP
April 7, 2016

A major Clinton Foundation donor company that has been granted millions in U.S. federal loans has been linked to a corruption probe in Pakistan, according to reports.

The Abraaj Group, a Middle Eastern investment fund that contributed between $500,000 and $1 million to the Clinton Foundation, has not been charged in the case, but its name has surfaced in Pakistani media reports. Authorities in Sindh province have accused a prominent government official of providing illegal favors to K-Electric, a power company owned and managed by the Abraaj Group since 2009.

Former Pakistani oil minister Dr. Asim Hussain was arrested last year amid allegations that he helped harbor terrorists in a string of hospitals he owned and doled out illegal contracts to companies, including K-Electric. Both Hussain and K-Electric have denied the allegations.

The investigation has not impacted the U.S. government’s ongoing partnership with the Abraaj Group, which dates back to at least 2012. That year, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation—a federal agency that dispenses corporate loans under the guidance of the U.S. State Department—selected the Abraaj Group to manage its $150 million Middle East investment fund.

Two weeks later, the Abraaj Group co-sponsored the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting.

Last October, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation again pledged up to $250 million to help fund the Abraaj Group’s K-Electric operations. The announcement came less than a month after the Sindh Rangers, a Pakistani law enforcement agency, reportedly issued a 12-page report accusing Hussain of passing illegal favors to K-Electric.

According to the Sindh Rangers, Hussain was "involved in various acts of corruption, corrupt practices and misuse of authority as public office holder." The paramilitary group claimed he also embezzled money that was "subsequently used in terror financing and funding target killers."

The Rangers’ report claimed that "Dr Asim [Hussain] gave favours and illegal gas connections to KESC [K-Electric], which was owned by Abraaj Group with links to [former Pakistani president] Asif Zardari and [Zardari’s sister] Faryal Talpur to the tune of Rs100 billion," according to a summary by the International News.

A spokesperson for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation told the Washington Free Beacon that its board approved the project with the Abraaj Group and K-Electric before news of the investigation emerged.

"We are aware of the situation and are following up with the borrower," OPIC press secretary Sandra Niedzwiecki said.

A spokesperson for the Abraaj Group referred the Free Beacon to an Oct. 2, 2015 statement on the K-Electric website, which strongly denied the charges.

"K-Electric has categorically refuted and denied the false and defamatory allegations that have been referenced in a few publications regarding undue favors taken by the company and/or the provision of illegal gas connections and supply," the statement said. "K-Electric is a publicly listed company and operates in strict compliance with national laws and regulations and adheres to the highest standards of ethics and corporate governance."

A spokesperson for the Abraaj Group said K-Electric "has not been contacted by any government or judicial agencies on this matter."

Dr. Asim Hussain has pleaded not guilty to separate charges of aiding terrorists and corruption.

Hussain appeared in Karachi’s Accountability Court on Thursday, where he was expected to be indicted, according to reports. However, jail authorities brought him to the courthouse over an hour late, and the hearing was rescheduled for a later date.

Last month, Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency, the National Accountability Bureau, filed a corruption reference against Hussain. "In this case, the accused persons were alleged to have illegally fraudulently and with the connivance of officials of OGDCL [Oil and Gas Development Company, Limited] and SSGCL [Sui Southern Gas Company, Limited] awarded gas contracts," the bureau’s executive board wrote in a March 2 statement.

K-Electric is not the only part of the Abraaj Group entangled in a corruption case. The CEO of PetroTiger, a Colombian petroleum company in the Abraaj Group’s portfolio, pleaded guilty to bribing a foreign official last June. He was sentenced to probation. PetroTiger reportedly cooperated in the case and the company was not charged.

Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group, said the situation raised questions for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

"By law, OPIC is required to conduct due diligence efforts on any potential recipient of financing, especially matters involving millions of dollars," said Boehm. "Yet more and more cases have emerged in which recipients of OPIC financing with ties to the Clinton Foundation were not properly vetted. One major Clinton donor, Claudio Osorio, is now doing 12 years in prison for defrauding OPIC in a $10 million financing deal."

Update 4:50 P.M.: This post has been updated with comment from the National Legal and Policy Center.

Published under: Clinton Foundation