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Amar Singh contributed millions to Clinton Foundation

December 19, 2008 09:23 IST

Samajwadi Party General Secretary Amar Singh contributed anywhere from $1 to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and so did industrialist Lakshmi Mittal, chief executive of ArcelorMittal, according to information released by the non-profit organisation set up by the former President Bill Clinton to fund a variety of charitable activities around the world, including combating the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

The Foundation raised a total of $492 million since its inception in 1997 through the end of 2007, from 205,000 donors, including foreign governments, other charitable foundations, trade groups like the Confederation of Indian Industry (which gave anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million), businesses, and individuals who gave as little as $10 each.

The list did not release specific figures, but only provided a range of the contributions made, and neither did it list the occupation or countries of resident of the individual donors. So, it could not be ascertained whether Singh and Mittal gave $1 million or $5 million, or somewhere in-between, as with the CII, whether it gave exactly $500,000 or a $1 million or somewhere in-between.

The figures showed that the Foundation received more than $40 million from Saudi Arabia ($10 to $25 million range) and other Gulf countries, including Kuwait and Qatar and from Oman, Brunei, Norway and Italy.

Earlier, it had refused to disclose details of who the contributors were saying it wanted to maintain their confidentiality, but with President-elect Barack Obama naming former First Lady and Senator Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State designate, a memorandum of understanding had been hammered out between the Obama and Clinton teams that the Foundation would not only release these names but also submit future Foundation activities and paid speeches by the former President to an ethics review.

Under the terms of the agreement, Clinton was also to absolve himself from the day-to-day operations of his annual Clinton Global Initiative to which several foreign governments and organisations had pledged funds and that the State Department would be kept informed about new contributors, which going forward were unlikely to include foreign governments.

The Foundation's CEO Bruce Lindsay and attorney Cheryl Mills, according to the Associated Press, had also met with senior aides to Senator John Kerry, incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and the ranking Republican on the panel, Senator Richard Lugar and apprised them of the MOU between them and the Obama team.

Several television networks like ABC News and CNN echoed the sentiments expressed by the AP report that 'the list also underscores ties between the Clintons and India, a connection that could complicate diplomatic perception of whether Hillary Clinton can be a neutral broker between India and Pakistan in a region where President-elect Barack Obama will face an early test of his foreign policy leadership'.

The report noted that Singh, an Indian political leader had 'hosted Bill Clinton during a visit to India in 2005 and met Hillary Clinton in New York in September to discuss the Indo-US civil nuclear deal'.

The AP also said, "Some of the donors have extensive ties to Indian interests and could prove troubling to Pakistan," and noted that "tensions between the two nuclear nations are high since last month's deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai."

In an exclusive interview with rediff.com, when he visited the US in September, Amar Singh said the specific purpose of his trip at that particular time was to meet with Hillary Clinton to among other things to urge her to push for the consummation of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

He said, "I have had a very close relationship with Hillary Clinton. I had not met her for long. I had a dinner appointment with her yesterday night (September 12), where we spent some quality time together for more than two hours. So, that was the sole purpose of my visit because I thought that I should seize this opportunity to come and interact with her."

When asked how this relation was formed, Amar Singh had said, "Our relationship was formed long time back. We met together in India through Sant Chatwal (New York-based multi-millionaire hotelier and close friend of the Clintons) and thereafter it developed gradually and Mr Clinton came all the way to Lucknow to attend a dinner for me and then in all the Clinton program initiative meetings he has been calling me and interacting with me."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC