Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Did Rezko pay big-bucks bribe for Iraqi contract?

The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
As questioning of potential jurors wrapped up Tuesday in the corruption trial of political fund-raiser Tony Rezko, a new accusation has surfaced that Rezko paid a $1.5 million bribe in an effort to win a $50 million business deal in Iraq.

In a court filing, Rezko's lawyers say that prosecutors accused him in a closed-door meeting of paying the bribe to Aiham Alsammarae, Iraq's former minister of electricity.
Eye on Rezko: Updates from our blog Archive: Tony Rezko coverage
Rezko trial roundup
Tuesday: Questioning of potential jurors concluded.

Today: Lawyers for Rezko and for the prosecution are expected to pick the jury. Opening statements remain set for Thursday morning.

Rezko's defense team called the accusation "baseless." They accused the prosecution of relying too heavily on the word of Daniel Mahru, a former Rezko business partner who is expected to testify against Rezko.

"Had the government investigated Mahru's claim before regurgitating it, the government would have learned that just about every aspect of Mahru's story is demonstrably false," Rezko's lawyers wrote.

In 2005, a start-up company owned in part by Rezko -- Companion Security -- won a $50 million contract from Iraq's Ministry of Electricity to train Iraqi power-plant guards in the United States. The deal was left in limbo a month later because of a change in Iraq's leadership.

Rezko -- who's accused of coercing bribes and kickbacks from companies seeking state of Illinois pension business -- isn't charged in connection with the Iraqi deal. But the disclosure illustrates the government's interest in his overseas dealings.
No word yet from the Obama campaign on this one.