BY: Adam Kredo
August 14, 2012 5:00 am
A former Obama administration trade adviser accused of plotting to purchase $10 million in gold from a Congolese warlord refused to detail his role in the illegal plot, invoking the Fifth Amendment more than 100 times during confidential court testimony, according to documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
President Obama tapped oil mogul Kase Lawal, a prolific Democratic bundler and Clinton family confidante, to serve as a member of the White House’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations in 2010. Lawal’s name no longer appears on the website.
Soon after his appointment, court documents allege, Lawal became entangled in a plot to purchase nearly 2,500 pounds of Congolese gold from Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, a rebel commander who has been linked by the International Criminal Court to ethnic massacres and rapes.
The charges raised red flags among D.C. foreign policy observers, who questioned why the White House would associate with such a controversial figure.
Lawal is a prolific donor to both the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign, according to public records in which he lists himself as the chairman and CEO of CAMAC International. He donated $35,800 to the Obama Victory Fund in 2011 and $30,800 to the DNC. Additionally, Lawal has donated varying amounts to several Democratic Congressional campaigns.
Lawal and his oil conglomerate, CAMAC International, are named as the principal defendants in a civil case launched by the owner of an airplane seized by authorities when the gold transaction went sour. The case is scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 10in Dallas, Tex.
“In responding to this litigation, Mr. Lawal engaged legal counsel who reviewed the various requests for discovery made by the plaintiff, some of which assumed acts of misconduct without basis in fact or law,” said a spokesman for Lawal. “At the deposition requested by the plaintiff, Mr. Lawal followed the advice of his legal counsel and exercised the privileges and protections guaranteed by our judicial system. The claims made by the plaintiff in this contractual dispute will be addressed in the courtroom.”
Lawal exploited his close ties to the White House to convince those around him that the gold deal was a legal transaction despite the warlord’s involvement, depositions reveal.
Testimony offered by Lawal’s key point man, Carlos St. Mary, indicates that Lawal sunk millions of CAMAC’s money into a deal rife with fraud and deceit. Lawal’s alleged actions would have violated a U.N. ban on doing business with rogue Congolese warlords.
David Disiere, owner of Southlake Aviation, the Texas-based firm that leased CAMAC International a Gulfstream jet later seized by authorities, told the Free Beacon that Lawal presented himself as a legitimate businessman, and touted his close ties to the Obama administration.
“You’ve got a man on this international economic advisory council appointed by President Obama,” said Disiere, whose company defaulted on a $17 million loan associated with the aircraft as a result of CAMAC’s international escapades. “I just expected more.”
Disiere is seeking an undisclosed amount of damages against Lawal and several CAMAC affiliates, charging that all parties violated the terms of their lease agreement with his company, Deep South Partners.
“You’ve got an individual [who has] clearly been vetted by the government of our country and that gave me a lot of trust of faith that these are the kind of people we should lease the plane to,” Disiere said. “I certainly never conceived the aircraft would be seized in a foreign land where an all-out war is going on.”
Lawal refused to answer questions about the incident during a videotaped oral deposition on May 21, and invoked the Fifth Amendment in a bid to avoid self-incrimination, according to a transcript obtained by the Free Beacon.
However, testimony from CAMAC associate Carlos St. Mary was more forthcoming.