By Jessica Mundawarara|
C.Gregory Turner, the American lobbyist jailed this week for illegally campaigning to end US government sanctions against Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, was gunning for the plentiful Marange diamonds, it emerged.
Arriving on the scene in Zimbabwe in 2008, at the height of an unprecedented, army-backed looting spree in the Marange diamond fields, Turner and his cohorts were assured by Mugabe that they would get fabulous wealth if they got the despot off the hook.
During closing arguments before sentencing in Chicago on Monday, a prosecutor said Turner was hoping to get diamond and gold mines in Zimbabwe as payment for his efforts to get Mugabe off the blacklist.
The 72 year-old black American lobbyist claimed he hoped his efforts to end the embargo would create jobs for youths in Chicago, president Barack Obama’s home city.
“Kids in Englewood could roast coffee beans for Starbucks, or polish diamonds like anyone else,” Turner said.
Prosecutors, however, dismissed Turner’s humanitarian arguments, saying he was driven by greed.
Assistant US attorneys Barry Jonas and Georgia Alexakis said Turner and his co-defendant Prince Asiel Ben Israel hoped to get millions of dollars in lobbying fees from Mugabe.
“He was, to put it generously, an entrepreneur in Africa,” Jonas told US district judge Elain Bucklo. “He was looking for a payday.”
Jonas said Turner’s lobbying efforts, involving black Chicago politicians, including representative Ken Dunkin and state senator Donne Trotter “undercut the efforts of the US government” to end human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
Turner, a black Jew who now lives in Israel, said he would appeal the 15-month sentence handed down by judge Bucklo. He was convicted at a jury trial in October 2014, of illegally working to end sanctions designed to end human rights abuses by the Mugabe regime. He was not registered as a ‘foreign agent’ as required by law. In 2008, at the height of the political and diplomatic crisis in Zimbabwe triggered by rigged elections and violence, Turner attempted to use politicians, including US Rep. Danny Davis, to open up a back channel to Obama. The scheme failed when the White House alerted the FBI.
(c) 2015 Now Daily. All Rights Reserved.