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  Clinton Contributor To Pay $8.6M

By Michael J. Sniffen
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, Jan. 11, 2001; 8:09 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON –– Indonesian billionaire James Riady has agreed to pay a record $8.6 million criminal fine and plead guilty to using corporate funds from his foreign Lippo Group to reimburse contributors to Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign for the presidency, the Justice Department announced Thursday night.

Riady, a key figure in the campaign finance scandal, pledged $1 million in 1992 to support the then-Arkansas governor's campaign, the government said.

Under terms of a plea bargain filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Riady agreed to surrender and come to this country at an unspecified future date even though there is no extradition treaty between Indonesia and the United States.

An FBI summary released last year said Democratic fund-raiser John Huang, a Riady employee, alleged that Riady had told Clinton, while he was Arkansas governor, during a limousine ride that he wanted to raise $1 million for his campaign.

Last April, Clinton told federal investigators that he did not have "a specific recollection of what the conversation was, or this fact of the car ride." He said he only remembered seeing Riady "sometime in '92 after I became the nominee," and that Riady pledged to help his campaign.

Riady agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to defraud the United States. Foreign campaign contributions are illegal under U.S. law.

In addition, LippoBank California, a California state-chartered bank affiliated with Lippo Group, agreed to plead guilty to 86 misdemeanor accounts charging that its agents, Riady and Huang, made illegal foreign campaign contributions from 1988 through 1994.

Riady is one of 26 people and two corporations so far charged by Justice's campaign finance task force since it was established four years ago.

Riady also agreed to cooperate with the government's continuing investigation.

The total of $8,610,000 in fines is the largest ever imposed in a campaign finance case in U.S. history, the department said.

Since last August, Riady, an Indonesian citizen, has met about half a dozen times with U.S. prosecutors and FBI agents to outline the information he could provide as part of a plea bargain.

Riady will waive his legal right to apply for re-enty into the United States for a period of two years, except when his presence is requested to fulfill his agreement to cooperate with the continuing investigation.

He also agreed to perform 400 hours of community service, forfeit to the U.S. Treasury any refunds that might be issued to him by any political campaign committees because of Thursday's announcement. He will be barred from making or directing any future campaign contributions in U.S. elections.

The government's court filing alleged that between May 1990 and June 1994, Riady and Huang, who worked in the Commerce Department and for the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton administration, conspired to obstruct the Federal Election Commission by secretly reimbursing campaign contributions with funds from foreign people or companies, who are barred from U.S. contributions, and by exceeding U.S. limits on campaign contributions.

A Justice Department official, requesting anonymity, said that federal sentencing guidelines would not call for a prison term for a first time offender like Riady for this type of felony conviction.

This official added that independent counsel Robert Ray, who is investigating Clinton on other matters, was consulted and indicated that the plea agreement was consistent with the best interests of his investigation, which does not include campaign financing.

Ray's office has prosecuted former Justice official and Clinton pal, Webster Hubbell, and has investigated whether payments to him, including $100,000 from Lippo Group, after he resigned were designed to keep him from testifying against Clinton or his wife, Hillary.

The government's court filing said the goal of the contributions was to obtain access, meetings and time with politicians, elected officials and top government officials; to enhance the contacts and status of the Lippo Group and LippoBank with business and government leaders here and abroad, and to find business opportunities for Lippo Group and LippoBank.

The government said that federal policies that would benefit Lippo Group including granted most-favored-nation trade status to China, which the Clinton administration recently obtained from Congress; normalization of U.S. relations with Vietnam; open trade policies with Indonesia; Community Reinvestment Act exemptions for Lippo Bank and a repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act which limited business opportunities for LippoBank.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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