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Obama’s ex-secretary admits hiding cheque received from Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire

The United State Justice Department said a former transportation secretary, accepted a $50,000 cheque that he “understood at the time” came from Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire, one Gilbert Chagoury, but failed to disclosed it as required on two government ethics forms.

Wednesday that Ray LaHood, when he was US transportation secretary, accepted a $50,000 cheque that he “understood at the time” came from Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, purposefully failed to disclose the “loan” as required on two government ethics forms, then

The department also said LaHood “made misleading statements to FBI agents investigating Chagoury about the check and its source”.

The Republican former congressman from Illinois, who served in former US President, Barack Obama’s cabinet from 2009 to 2013, initially denied receiving the loan in a 2017 interview with the FBI, according to a report by Politico.

But he acknowledged receiving the payment when agents showed him a copy of the cheque, said.

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Under a December 2019 non-prosecution agreement, it said the Justice Department disclosed on Wednesday that LaHood agreed to pay back the $50,000 he got in June 2012, pay a $40,000 fine and cooperate with the government’s investigation of Chagoury.

On Thursday, it quoted the department as saying the Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire had agreed to pay $1.8m to avoid prosecution over $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions he channelled to US politicians through one Toufic Baaklini, an associate in Virginia.

It further quoted the Politico as saying Chagoury gained notoriety for donating to the Clinton Foundation, though all the payments though Baaklini appeared to have gone to Republicans, including $100,000 to Senator Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, Politico reports.

It said Baaklini wrote the personal cheque to LaHood, though the Justice Department said it was a “separate and unrelated matter” from the campaign finance violations.

It also reported that in 2015, Baaklini chipped in $2,700 to the campaign of LaHood’s son, Darin, who now holds his father’s old seat in the US Congress.

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