Hassan Nemazee, a top financier of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid and one-time finance chairman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was arrested on a federal bank fraud charge, accused of attempting to defraud Citigroup out of $74 million.
Federal agents stopped Nemazee, 59, at the Newark Liberty International Airport on Tuesday and took him to a Manhattan court, where he was ordered held overnight. He was charged with providing forged documents to Citigroup Inc., to induce it into lending him $74 million starting in December 2006.
In an affidavit, FBI Special Agent G. Dalynn Barker said he interviewed Nemazee on Aug. 23 at Liberty International as he was checking in for a flight for Rome. The agent confronted him with documentation related to the $74 million loan.
Nemazee paid off the entire $74 million loan from Citibank by wire transfer the next day.
As part of the scheme, Nemazee allegedly “falsely gave as the address and telephone numbers of various financial institutions purportedly vouching for his financial strength an address and telephone number that was in fact controlled by Nemazee,” so that any calls to verify his accounts would come to a number “assigned to Nemazee himself, and not any financial institution.”
Nemazee is charged with one count of bank fraud, which carries a maximum prison term of 30 years and a maximum fine of $1 million or twice the gain or loss resulting from the crime.
Nemazee’s Democratic Party ties are extensive.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, he raised more than $500,000 for Hillary Clinton as her national campaign finance chair, then went on to raise another $500,000 for Barack Obama.
He also took part in a famous “millionaire’s lunch” George Soros hosted for Obama in December 2006, before the Illinois Democrat had officially declared his candidacy for president.
When Clinton sought to retire campaign debt in September 2008, he hosted a fundraiser at his home that raised several hundred thousand dollars.
He has also served as national finance chair for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee when Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York chaired it.
Ironically, Preet Bharara, the new U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who indicted Nemazee, used to work as chief counsel for Schumer.
An Iranian-American born in Washington, D.C., Nemazee has had deep ties to the Clintons since the mid-1990s, giving $80,000 to the Democratic National Committee during the 1996 election cycle and attending at least one of the famous White House fundraising coffees.
When Clinton crony Terry McAuliffe was out of a job, Nemazee employed him at his New York investment firm. In January 2009, Nemazee threw a fundraiser at his Manhattan home for McAuliffe’s failed bid for governor of Virginia.
President Clinton nominated him in 1999 to be U.S. ambassador to Argentina but eventually withdrew his nomination after a former partner raised allegations of business improprieties. He also has given money to the Clinton Foundation.
Nemazee sat out the 2000 presidential campaign, giving just $2,000 to Al Gore and other Democrats, but returned to the circuit to support Sen. John Kerry in 2004, becoming his New York finance chairman.
He raised more than $500,000 for the Kerry campaign, some of it at a controversial fundraiser at the exclusive Ritz Carlton resort in Laguna Niguel, Calif., that he co-hosted with Hooshang Amirahmadi, a well-known pro-Tehran lobbyist.
Nemazee joined the board of Amirahmadi’s group, the American-Iranian Council, in 2001, a move that caused a furor within the Iranian-American community because of the council's extensive lobbying activities to encourage U.S. recognition of the Tehran regime and to remove U.S. trade sanctions.
Once he became aware of the group’s pro-Tehran stance, Nemazee resigned from the board and told Newsmax that he “regretted” his association with the group. He denies any commercial or political ties to Tehran and has not gone back to Iran since the 1979 revolution.
Nemazee has cultivated a close relationship to Vice President Joe Biden over many years, holding fundraisers for him and hosting him at Iranian community events.
For more on Biden’s ties, read “Biden’s Ties to Pro-Iran Groups Questioned.”
More recently, Nemazee has teamed up with other prominent Iranian-Americans to bankroll U.S. political activities.
In 2002, he helped establish the Iranian American Political Action Committee IAPAC, an ostensibly bipartisan PAC that gave predominantly to Democrats.
Among the co-founders was Faraj Aalaie, the CEO of Centillium Communication in Atherton, Calif., who has been accused of subcontracting computer programming work to Iranian nationals in violation of U.S. sanctions regulations. (Aalaie never responded to those allegations and settled the suit by paying the plaintiff).
Aalaie’s wife, Susan Akbarpour, helped organize several of the political fundraisers Nemazee has sponsored, including an IAPAC event at her home.
Nemazee merged IAPAC last year with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, a much larger and better-funded group established by Hamid Biglari and other wealthy Iranian-Americans. The group recently set up a Washington, D.C., lobbying office with a multimillion-dollar budget.
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