By Iyobosa Uwugiaren
Nigerian-Lebanese billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, owner of the giant Eko Hotel in Lagos and the ground breaking Atlantic City, is no longer allowed to enter the United States.
The billionaire Bill Clinton Foundation donor was banned from getting a visa on terrorism grounds for allegedly funding a political coalition, Hezbollah, which the United States deems a terrorism group.
The Los Angeles Times, which did a deep dive on Chagoury — in its August 30, 2016 edition, said that Chagoury’s visa troubles likely stem from his support of a Christian Lebanese politician. The politician, Michel Aoun, is part of the same political coalition as Hezbollah, which the United States deems a terror group.
Chagoury been in the news of late because the Bill Clinton Foundation’s Doug Band wanted him to get access to a top State Department official, while the controversial US Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, pointed to Band’s ask and said it was an example of the Clintons’ ‘pay-to-play’ scheme between the foundation and State.
‘’Chagoury’s name has been brought up of late, because of an ask Clinton Foundation head Doug Band made of Hillary Clinton’s State Department – he wanted to put the donor, whose parents were Lebanese, in touch with the American government’s top Lebanon person’’, the US’s daily stated.
‘’Donald Trump, among others, used the correspondence to try and show that the Clintons were running a ‘pay-for-play’ enterprise between the State Department and the family foundation, where Chagoury had been a million dollar donor.’’
Chagoury was ‘known to have funded’ Aoun, the Times reported, with a Lebanese government minister telling U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman in 2007 to ‘deliver to Chagoury a strong message about the possibility of financial sanctions and travel bans against those who undermine Lebanon’s legitimate institutions.’
Chagoury never received the warning, the Times wrote, as Clinton Foundation head Band pushed for the donor to get access inside of Hillary Clinton’s State Department once she took over the reins in 2009.
As Hillary Clinton runs for the White House, her family foundation has become politically problematic with Republicans suggesting she and husband Bill Clinton were running a ‘pay-to-play’ enterprise between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department.
Band’s email to the secretary of state’s top aide Huma Abedin was one of the most heavily pointed to when detractors – including Republican nominee Trump – suggested the Clinton were operating a ‘pay-for-play’ enterprise from within the State Department.
Chagoury had donated at least $1 million to the family foundation, if not more, documents show.
‘We need Gilbert Chagoury to speak to the substance guy re Lebanon. As you know he’s key guy there and to us and is loved in Lebanon. Very imp,’ Band
No meeting ever happened, however, according to both Feltman and Chagoury’s spokesperson, who explained that Chagoury just wanted to pass along information about the Lebanese election.
A year later, Chagoury’s trouble with American security officials began.
He was pulled off a private jet in Teterboro, New Jersey, and questioned by Homeland Security officials for four hours because his name was now on the no-fly list within the United States.
The billionaire was especially angry because the questioning delayed his travels and made him unable to see the L.A. Lakers play in the playoffs.
‘I just love the Lakers,’ he told ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity at the time. Chagoury owns a house in Beverly Hills too, where he would spend several months of every year.
Chagoury later received a letter that said his name was taken off the list and he was now considered a ‘selectee,’ meaning he was allowd to fly, but would receive extra scrutiny.
Another Homeland Security document, according to the L.A. Times, cited that the billionaire had unspecified links to terrorism.
Yet another document – a letter written to Chagoury – apologized to the businessman ‘for any inconvenience or unpleasantness’ that he experienced during this questioning.
In 2013 and FBI intelligence report claimed Chagoury sent funds to Aoun, who, in turn, gave the money to Hezbollah. The report said the information was unverified from a source, who also said the Lebanese Christian politician was ‘facilitating fundraising for Hezbollah.’
As a businessman, Chagoury has been a confidant of many African leaders and serves as ambassador of St Lucia, in the Americas.
His business empire has interests in construction, real estate, property development and hotels.
He co-founded the Chagoury Group with his younger brother Ronald Chagoury in 1971. Gilbert and Ronald Chagoury founded C & C Construction in the late 1970s, which was the forerunner of Hitech and ITB. The family has an estimated wealth of $4.2 billion.