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The former transportation secretary under former President Barack Obama has admitted to federal prosecutors that he intentionally did not report a $50,000 loan he received from a Lebanese-Nigerian businessman, according to reports.

In 2017, the FBI questioned Ray LaHood, 75, a former Peoria, Illinois-area congressman who served in Obama’s Cabinet from 2009 to 2013, which he initially denied receiving the loan. However, he changed his story later, after being shown a copy of the check he received, according to a non-prosecution deal he struck with federal authorities in 2019, Politico reported.

Politico reported that the businessman was identified as Gilbert Chagoury, known for sizable donations to the Clinton Foundation and contacts with Hillary Clinton’s inner circle while she served as secretary of state.

Chagoury’s entry into the U.S on terrorism-related grounds was denied in 2017, because he was suspected of funnelling money to Hezbollah, according to the Los Angeles Times. During that time, the billionaire was in the news over contributions of between $1 million and $5 million that he made to the Clinton Foundation.
Joseph Arsan, 68, also of Paris, and Toufic Joseph Baaklini, 58, of Washington, D.C., two Chagoury’s associates — — also paid fines to resolve outstanding charges against them.
the DOJ news release said Arsan’s deferred prosecution agreement included paying $1.7 million to resolve tax issues against him.

In agreement to avoid Baaklini’s prosecution, “admitted to giving $30,000 in cash provided by Chagoury to an individual at a restaurant in Los Angeles who, along with others, later made campaign contributions to the 2016 campaign of a U.S. congressman,” the release said.

Over his donations to political campaigns in the U.S, Chagoury, meanwhile, struck his deal with U.S. authorities in 2019. Politico reported that the overseas businessman admitted sending $180,000 to people in the U.S. to help finance campaigns.

Toufic Joseph Baaklini was identified as one of the intermediaries who later cooperated with U.S. investigators, WEEK-TV of Peoria, Illinois, reported.

Documents show that candidates receiving the money included Republican Mitt Romney for his 2012 presidential campaign, as well as several members of the U.S. House for their election bids.

The Justice Department said Chagoury, 75, paid $1.8 million to resolve allegations that he and others donated $180,000 to various political candidates, violating the federal ban on candidates accepting foreign donations.

The businessman, who lacked a legal residence in the U.S., was therefore prohibited from making contributions to U.S. political candidates. The Justice Department documents make no allegations that any U.S. candidates were aware that Chagoury was the source of the donations, according to Politico.

While investigating Chagoury, authorities reportedly learned of the loan to LaHood, according to the report.

LaHood ultimately agreed to pay back the loan and to pay the U.S. a $40,000 fine, while Chagoury paid a $1.8 million fine and entered a delayed prosecution agreement, the report added.

Previous reports and State Department documents have linked Chagoury to Hezbollah, the Lebanese political group that the U.S. government considers a terror organization, the report said.

Chagoury currently lives in Paris and has denied any wrongdoing or links to terrorism, Politico reported.
Before serving in the U.S. House from 1995 to 2009, Republican LaHood served in the Illinois House from 1982 to 1983.

Sources: Fox News, The Western Journal

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