Ex-transportation secretary didn’t disclose overseas cash loan: NPR

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Former US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood admitted to federal prosecutors that he took a loan from a foreign billionaire and failed to disclose the check on government forms.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images


Former US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood admitted to federal prosecutors that he took a loan from a foreign billionaire and failed to disclose the check on government forms.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took $50,000 from an associate of a billionaire who ran an illegal scheme providing foreign contributions to U.S. campaigns, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. LaHood later failed to disclose the check on two government ethics forms as required.

LaHood, the transportation secretary during former President Barack Obama’s first term, received a check for $50,000 from Virginia businessman Toufic Baaklini in 2012. According to the Justice Department, LaHood “has understood” that this money actually came from the Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury.

LaHood did not disclose the loan because he did not want to be publicly associated with Chagoury. The DOJ said in a statement that LaHood faced financial problems when he accepted the check. The former secretary then attempted to mislead federal agents investigating Chagoury and did not reveal the check or who gave it to him.

Chagoury, with the help of Baaklini and other associates, masterminded a complicated and illegal scheme funneling foreign money into US elections. Prosecutors say Chagoury provided $180,000 to people in the United States who gave the money to four federal political candidates from 2012 to 2016. Those candidates are unnamed.

LaHood was not involved in the scheme, prosecutors said.

In a non-prosecution agreement signed in December 2019, LaHood agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation, returned the $50,000 and paid a $40,000 fine.

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