Once the information in Peter Schweizer’s explosive new book Clinton Cash came to light, it was presumably just a matter of time before this came up.
The basic story has been all over the news today. In the mid-2000s, Bill Clinton helped a Canadian mining investor get face time with the president of Kazakhstan – and lucrative uranium-mining investments with the national atomic-energy company, Kazatomprom. The Canadian mining investor, Frank Giustra, leveraged that big score to buy out former South African company Uranium One, and acquire interests in uranium ventures in several other countries, including the United States. Frank Giustra became a major donor to the Clintons.
Money rolled in. Mr. Giustra hosted a star-studded charity fundraiser with the Clintons in Toronto.
But then, says the New York Times, “what had been a string of successes was about to hit a speed bump.”
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By June 2009, a little over a year after the star-studded evening in Toronto, Uranium One’s stock was in free-fall, down 40 percent. Mr. [Mouktar] Dzhakishev, the head of Kazatomprom, had just been arrested on charges that he illegally sold uranium deposits to foreign companies, including at least some of those won by Mr. Giustra’s UrAsia and now owned by Uranium One. …
[P]rivately, Uranium One officials were worried they could lose their joint mining ventures. American diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks also reflect concerns that Mr. Dzhakishev’s arrest was part of a Russian power play for control of Kazakh uranium assets.
At the time, Russia was already eying a stake in Uranium One, Rosatom company documents show.
It was during this period that the chairman of Uranium One, Ian Telfer, just coincidentally happened to donate some $2.35 million to the Clinton Family Foundation, while an application was pending for the Russian company Rosatom to buy the 20% stake in Uranium One. A number of other people connected with Uranium One were also donors to the Clintons during this period.
It’s worth emphasizing here that the crony activity didn’t only involve the State Department’s role in letting Russia buy a big stake in U.S. uranium reserves. It also involved keeping the deal alive at the very beginning, by intervening to confirm the validity of the licenses that made Uranium One attractive to Rosatom.
[T]he Vancouver-based Uranium One pressed the American Embassy in Kazakhstan, as well as Canadian diplomats, to take up its cause with Kazakh officials, according to the American cables.
“We want more than a statement to the press,” Paul Clarke, a Uranium One executive vice president, told the embassy’s energy officer on June 10, the officer reported in a cable. “That is simply chitchat.” What the company needed, Mr. Clarke said, was official written confirmation that the licenses were valid.
NYT goes on:
What is clear is that the embassy acted, with the cables showing that the energy officer met with Kazakh officials to discuss the issue on June 10 and 11.
Three days later, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosatom completed a deal for 17 percent of Uranium One.
Rosatom later acquired a controlling 51% stake in Uranium One – also approved by U.S. authorities – and in 2013, it bought out all the public shares and took the company private. Money rolled in from Uranium One to the Clintons throughout that period.
But what was that thing about Mouktar Dzhakishev, the head of Kazatomprom, and the illegal transactions in 2009? Funny you should ask.
It’s not clear that the one we’re interested in was among the illegal transactions for which he was reportedly arrested and charged. (And who knows, he may indeed have been targeted for Russia-linked political reasons, as is so often the case in the hierarchies of state-owned Asian companies. He could have been no more corrupt a criminal than the average head of an atomic-energy company in his neighborhood.)
But in November 2009, the International Atomic Energy Agency was provided with a report from a member state that “elements” within Kazatomprom, the company with which Clinton donor Uranium One had its core investments, intended to sell 1,350 tons of uranium, illegally, for $450 million, to Iran. (The original AP report is here.)
Since the Clintons were benefiting from the profits realized by Kazatomprom and Uranium One, it behooves us to highlight the point made by RFE/RL: that the market value of that amount of uranium would have been about $130 million, if it had been sold aboveboard. Iran reportedly agreed to buy it for more than three times that much.
If the unnamed member state had not forwarded its intelligence to IAEA, it’s quite possible that the Clintons could have received subsequent donations from Uranium One that originated from the windfall of this proposed transaction with Iran.
Three cheers for unnamed member states.
A couple of comments on the timing of this development in 2009. One, it appears to have happened just as, or shortly after, Rosatom acquired its stake in Uranium One, Kazatomprom’s major partner in several mining ventures. That acquisition occurred in June 2009. Given Russia’s methods and history, including her history with Iran, one thing we can’t discount is the possibility that Russians, creeping around in back rooms, actually brokered the deal.
Two, 2009 was the year when Iran was assessed to have stockpiled enough low-enriched uranium for her first bomb. IAEA published that assessment in February 2009.
Although the Clinton Cash story starts well before that point, the decisions made by the Hillary Clinton State Department about Rosatom, Uranium One, Kazatomprom, and Kazakhstan were all made during a period in which Iran already had enough LEU for a bomb, and was increasing her uranium stockpile and her enrichment operations year by year.
Everything the world knew about the Iranian nuclear program from 2009 to 2013, and about Russia’s involvement in it, was known to the Clinton State Department. It’s worth remembering that, as we survey the history of the Clintons and their uranium cronies during that same period, when Rosatom slowly bought out Uranium One: the crony company whose mining partners include not just American companies but Kazakhs who tried to sell uranium to Iran.