- President Clinton's close friend, a billionaire and fugitive
from justice, was a top Mossad source - and could wreck plans by Hillary
Clinton if she decides to run for the presidency.
- Billionaire fugitive Marc Rich, a close personal friend
of President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, was one of the most important
high-level contacts Mossad had in the United States.
- The revelations, published here for the first time, could
be a serious blow for Hillary Clinton's plans to run for the presidency.
- Today Rich, a Belgian-born Jew who has taken Spanish
nationality, lives in Switzerland under heavy, armed-guard protection.
There is no extradition treaty with the United States to enable him to
be questioned by the FBI about his until now secret connection to Mossad.
- In January 2000, his last day in office, Clinton pardoned
Rich, a secretive commodities trader indicted in 1983 on charges of evading
almost $50 million in taxes and illegally buying oil from Iran during the
Tehran hostage crisis in 1979.
- The question that will inevitably dog Hillary, if she
runs for the presidency, will be how much did she and her husband even
suspect about Rich's Israeli intelligence links.
- An MI6 file covering the Clinton years in the White House
reveals that Rich is also suspected of knowing the real identity of a top
Mossad informer in the Clinton administration.
- The informer is still only known as "Mega."
The name was first discovered in February 1997 by the National Security
Agency (NSA). It provided the FBI with an intercept of a late-night telephone
conversation from the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
- It was between a Mossad intelligence officer, still identified
only as "Dov," and his superior in Tel Aviv. The intelligence
officer was later named as the Mossad director-general, Danny Yatom.
- "Dov" had asked for guidance as to whether
he "should go to Mega" for a copy of a letter written by Warren
Christopher, then secretary of state, to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.
- Yatom instructed Dov, according to a transcript of the
intercept, "This is not something we use Mega for."
- The MI6 file indicates that Mega had been in place toward
the end of the first Bush administration.
- It also describes how Rich had acted as a "conduit"
for the powerful Israeli lobby in the United States to counter FBI demands
that the hunt for Mega should be pursued as vigorously as the FBI dealt
with spies from other countries.
- The then MI6 head of station at the British Embassy sent
a memo to London stating that "dinner guests at the White House dining
table - who include Hollywood stars, attorneys, editors and senior members
of the Anti-Defamation League - lose no opportunity to remind Clinton of
the damage he could face in this matter. They argue the hunt is not properly
grounded and that Israel has already explained to DOS [Department of State]
the use of Mega."
- Mossad sayanim - the Hebrew name for "helpers"
- in the U.S. media had already planted stories that "Mega" was
an incorrect hearing of the Mossad slang for the CIA, Elga.
- "Further, Mega is supposedly a well-known word in
USIC [the U.S. intelligence community]. It is said to be a joint code for
shared intelligence with Mossad," the MI6 memo stated.
- President Clinton's only comment on pardoning Rich came
after he left office.
- "It was terrible politics. It wasn't worth the damage
to my reputation," he told Newsweek magazine.
- There has been widespread speculation among opponents
of the Clintons that Rich "bought" the pardon with political
donations and gifts that his former wife, Denise, gave the president and
- But in a hint of Rich's important connections to Mossad,
Clinton has admitted that he granted the pardon "partly because the
Justice Department did not oppose a pardon and because I had received a
request from the government of Israel."
- That request came in a personal handwritten note from
another old friend of Clinton, Israel's former prime minister, Ehud Barak.
- The MI6 file reveals that the pardon was stitched into
the Camp David peace agreement by another plea-bargainer, Benjamin Netanyahu.
- Clinton was convinced there were "strong mitigating
circumstances for a pardon."
- Rich and his first wife, Denise, fled to Switzerland
in 1983 - just before U.S. prosecutors brought charges against him of tax
evasion and trading with the outlawed regime in Iran.
- The couple divorced a decade later and Denise, 59, now
lives in New York in a magnificent Fifth Avenue duplex overlooking Central
- Rich, 69, has remarried and lives in similar splendor
in the exclusive town of Zug in Switzerland. He still deals in commodities.
His company, Marc Rich & Co Investment, has recently been taken over
by the Russian Alfa Group for a reported $3 billion.
- Rich's secret work for Israel included organizing Israeli
passports for members of the Russian Mafia. So far 30 known members of
various Mafia groups are currently traveling on Israeli passports.
- The FBI was also investigating Rich's connections to
various money-laundering operations involving mid-European banks and those
in Canada and the United States.
- Rich's prime use for Mossad was as someone who moved
in the highest financial circles in Europe, the Middle East and South America.
- It is those ties the FBI and other teams of U.S. investigators
were examining to see if they link to the large sums of money Rich paid
to the Clintons and other Democrats before the pardon was granted.
- WHITE PAPERS
- At the time, federal prosecutor Mary Jo White launched
a criminal investigation into Rich's financial links with Clinton and his
- White obtained copies of Clinton's White House phone
logs and those of Air Force One. The logs covered all calls the president
and Hillary made to Rich. There was also a complete record of all his calls
- All official calls are monitored by the U.S. communications
team that accompanies the president and his wife on all visits. The calls
were described at the time as "a key element in our investigation,"
by one of White's aides.
- Clinton himself received from Denise, just before leaving
office, a check for $450,000 to help him set up his Presidential Library
Fund. Denise also sent $1.1 million last year to the Democratic Party to
help Al Gore fight for the presidency.
- SMOKING GUN
- Until now, all the financial links to Richís past
have not been pursued. But it is the Mossad connection which could prove
to be a "smoking gun" for Hilary, should she enter the presidential
race - either next year or in 2008.
- Shortly before he was kidnapped by Hezbollah in October
2000, Mossad agent Hanan Tannenbaum visited Rich in his Swiss home.
- Tannenbaum had been sent by former Mossad director Yatom
to discuss what Tel Aviv sources later admitted were "intelligence
matters of the highest order." At the time, Yatom was personal security
adviser to Prime Minister Barak.
- Hezbollah somehow spirited Tannenbaum out of Europe to
their base in the Beka'a Valley. His fate remains unknown.
- In January 2000, shortly before the Rich pardon was granted,
the Senate Judiciary Committee received documents that showed Rich played
a crucial role in helping the Bank of Credit and Commercial International
(BCCI) arrange for Abu Nidal to receive "hundreds of millions of dollars
for illegal arms transactions in an effort to persuade its wealthy Middle
East backers that the bank was staunchly pro-Arab."
- A sworn affidavit by Ghassan Quassem, for 17 years a
senior officer with BCCI, states: "British weapons secretly destined
for Abu Nidal were financed through BCCI offices and shipped under export
documents that Marc Rich knew to be phony. My role at the bank was to handle
the Nidal account. I later became a spy for the CIA and MI6."
- With the coming election promising to be a knuckle-duster
fight, there is a real possibility that Rich may once more step back into
a spotlight he never welcomed. Nor the Clintons.
- Rich received one of 140 pardons Clinton granted during
his final hours for what was a rogue's gallery. The clutch of shady characters
included a heroin dealer.
- But it was the odious figure of Rich who has left a permanent
stain on Clinton's presidency - and raises questions now.
- Rich played a key part in supporting the apartheid regime
in South Africa, and the economic rape of post-Soviet Russia.
- His former wife, the Manhattan socialite, pleaded his
cause by throwing money at the Clintons - even giving Bill a saxophone.
- A hint of Clintonís feelings for Rich is contained
in a book proposal he has entered into with Knopf, the New York publisher,
for $10 million.
- In an outline for a chapter headed "How a Man Gets
What He Really Wants," Clinton writes: "Sometimes people who
seem to have very little in common can discover what they have in common."
- Was he referring to Rich?
- Certainly the billionaire is not quite as rich as he
was two years ago. In March 2001, British Customs officers at Gatwick airport
seized $1.9 million of Richís money.
- The money was seized under UK laws designed to "prevent
the movement of money from suspected drug trafficking."
- Last week in Zug, Rich refused to answer questions about
his intelligence links - or his connections to Saddam Hussein, North Korea
- Having renounced his American citizenship, he now travels
on Spanish and Israeli passports. He has dual nationality with both countries.
Until recently, he also held a Bolivian passport.
- The power for a president to grant a pardon stems from
the Constitution. This states that the president ìmay grant reprieves
and pardons for offenses against the United States.
- A president can issue a pardon for "any federal
crime for any reason and no reason - before or after conviction."
- The Clinton pardon stopped the prosecution in their tracks.
Post-pardon Rich is free to return to the United States without fear of
prosecution - except possibly in the case of compromised national security.
- There is no precedent for that - and Rich is unlikely
to provide one. But his links to Mossad remain a ticking time bomb for