Judicial Watch: New Documents Reveal Israeli Pressure on Clinton Administration to Withdraw Marc Rich Warrants

1995 Cable From Clinton Ambassador to Israel Details High-Level Israeli Efforts to Persuade State Department to Intercede With Department of Justice to Enable Fugitive Rich to Conduct Israeli Business

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Mar 13, 2014) - Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained previously confidential documents from the Department of State providing details of 1995 efforts by high-level Israeli officials to pressure the State Department to persuade the Department of Justice to withdraw outstanding arrest warrants against fugitive financier Marc Rich. Israel had recruited Rich, then living in Switzerland, to travel internationally in order to raise funds to finance economic deals between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Rich died on June 26, 2013, and Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about him with the Department of State on the same day.

While the Israeli official who interceded on Rich's behalf is not identified in the cable obtained by Judicial Watch, he or she was in a sufficiently high-level position to confer directly with then-U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk and Clinton administration Middle East convoy Dennis Ross. The official was also able to persuade Indyk to meet with Rich's lawyer, Isaac Herzog, just three days after the request. The confidential classification of the cable was extended by the State Department on February 10, 2014, for an additional 15 years, following the Judicial Watch June 2013 FOIA request, in an apparent effort by the State Department to keep the names of the Israeli official confidential. Amb. Indyk is now President Obama's Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations.

In the documents obtained by Judicial Watch, entitled "[REDACTED] REQUEST FOR INTERVENTION WITH DOJ ON BEHALF OF MARK [SIC] RICH," Indyk writes:

  • During August 29 [1995] meeting with Dennis Ross and I, [REDACTED] raised the issue of Mark Rich, a wealthy businessman now resident in Switzerland, whom [REDACTED] has recruited to head up an effort to promote private sector involvement in Palestinian economic development. [REDACTED] asked me to see Rich's lawyer, Isaac Herzog, to be briefed on the subject. He further requested that Dennis and I follow up in Washington to try to resolve the problem.

  • Rich paid a large fine and according to Herzog, DOJ is no longer pursuing the matter... Nevertheless, there are still international warrants outstanding for Rich's arrest. This severely restricts his travel... [REDACTED] request is that State consider the project and, if it is regarded as worthwhile, contact DOJ and communicate its interests in enabling Rich to engage in these activities -- specifically that: ... The GOI [Government of Israel] has notified State that it is in the GOI's interest to facilitate the travel on behalf of Mark Rich to advance the 'Economic Solution' ... The U.S. has a legitimate interest in fostering these objectives.

Interestingly, the Indyk confidential memo indicates that the U.S. ambassador had no knowledge of Rich or the activities that had led the commodities trader to be indicted in 1983 on 65 criminal counts, including income tax evasion, wire fraud, racketeering, and trading with Iran during the oil embargo. According to Indyk's confidential memo, "We have never heard of Mark [sic] Rich and have no way of evaluating his ability to contribute to this effort by bringing in foreign investors." The ambassador added, "However, [REDACTED] is pushing him hard."

On January 20, 2001, just hours before leaving office, President Clinton granted Rich a highly controversial presidential pardon. It was widely alleged at the time that Rich's pardon had been the result of Denise Rich having given more than $1 million to the Democratic Party, including more than $100,000 to the Senate campaign of Hillary Clinton and $450,000 to the Clinton Library foundation. In a June 24, 2001, editorial entitled "An Indefensible Pardon," the New York Times wrote that "Bill Clinton's last-minute pardon of Marc Rich ... was a shocking abuse of presidential power ... Mr. Clinton's irresponsible use of his pardoning authority has undermined the pursuit of justice."

"The cables obtained by Judicial Watch raise salient new questions about the relationship between Marc Rich and the Israeli government," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "And they suggest possible new insights into the motivations behind the scandalous last-minute pardon granted by Bill Clinton. Amb. Indyk should now disclose what he knows about the Rich pardon. Amb. Indyk is at least the fourth appointee embroiled in the Rich pardon scandal (in addition to John Podesta, Eric Holder, and Hillary Clinton. "