Monday, December 11, 2017

The Obama administration potentially knew of corruption at a Russian nuclear supplier years before it agreed to sign over 20 per cent of US’s uranium supply to the company, a new report has claimed.

The Hill claims federal agents found evidence of illegal payments made to an employee at a Russian nuclear company years before the Obama administration allowed the company to make a major business deal.

Employees at Tenex, a subsidiary of Rosatom – the regulatory body of the Russian nuclear complex – received bribes and kickbacks from American companies as early as 2009, according to the Hill. An undercover agent made secret recordings, collected financial records, and intercepted emails documenting the payments – the earliest of which was recorded in September 2009.

But in 2010, the Obama administration allowed Rosatom to move forward with the purchase of Canadian mining company Uranium One, effectively giving Moscow control of more than 20 per cent of America’s uranium supply. The next year, they allowed Tenex to expand the amount of nuclear products they sold in the US.

The decision sparked controversy years later, following a 2015 bombshell report: The New York Times found Moscow had paid millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation at the same time the US was pondering the Rosatom deal. Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State at the time.

 A spokesman for Ms Clinton’s presidential campaign told the Times that no one had ever produced “a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation”.

“To suggest the State Department, under then-Secretary Clinton, exerted undue influence in the U.S. government’s review of the sale of Uranium One is utterly baseless,” the spokesperson said.

That same year, federal agents arrested Vadim Mikerin – a top executive at Tenex – for arranging more than $2m in payments in exchange for contracts from the company, according to the Department of Justice.

During the DOJ investigation, Mikerin admitted to conspiring with others to send more than $2m to offshore shell company bank accounts in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland. He was forced to forfeit the money, and was sentenced to 48 months in jail.

The arrest made little news at the time, but legislators told the Hill that they were concerned that the Obama administration had not disclosed reports of corruption earlier.

“Not providing information on a corruption scheme before the Russian uranium deal was approved by US regulators and engage appropriate congressional committees has served to undermine U.S. national security interests by the very people charged with protecting them,” said former Representative Mike Rogers, who chaired the House Intelligence Committee while the investigation was being conducted.

He added: “The Russian efforts to manipulate our American political enterprise is breathtaking.”