Shortly after Hillary Clinton left the Obama administration, the State Department quietly took steps to purchase real estate in Nigeria from a firm whose parent company is owned by a major donor to the Clinton Foundation, records obtained by Fox News show.
On March 20, 2013, William P. Franklin, an “international realty specialist” at the State Department, emailed Mary E. Davis, an American diplomat stationed in Africa, instructing her to “put on Post letterhead” an “expression of interest” by the department in purchasing property at Eko Atlantic, a massive real estate development off the coast of Lagos. Franklin further instructed that the signed letter was to be “delivered to Ronald Chagoury.”
The draft letter, also obtained by Fox News, was undated and addressed to Chagoury care of his firm South Energyx Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of the larger Chagoury Group that is spearheading the Eko Atlantic real estate venture. The State Department letter sought, among other things, to confirm that the department could proceed with “acquisition of the real property…[at] the asking price of $1,250 per square meter.”
Overtures to real estate developers from State Department officials scouting locations for embassies, consulates and other diplomatic facilities would ordinarily not arouse interest. But in this case, the budding transaction – never completed, the department now says – raised eyebrows because Ronald Chagoury is the brother and business partner, in the Chagoury Group, of Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-born businessman whom federal records show has donated between $1 and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.
Indeed, Gilbert Chagoury’s friendship with the Clintons can be traced back to the Clinton presidency. In the mid-1990s, Chagoury donated nearly $500,000 to a voter-registration drive designed to help Democratic candidates, attended a White House dinner for premium donors, and met with high-ranking officials in the Clinton White House – including Susan Rice, now President Obama’s national security adviser – who were shaping U.S. policy toward Nigeria.
More recently, the Chagourys’ close ties to the Clintons generated headlines when a separate series of emails from 2009 – between Doug Band, an aide to former President Clinton and Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary Clinton – revealed the eagerness of the State Department to oblige a request for Chagoury to be granted access to senior officials working on Lebanon.
The State Department’s outreach to the Chagoury family, looking to buy property from the brothers, came less than a month after former President Clinton himself toured the Eko Atlantic project – for the second time. The first occasion was the ground breaking, in 2009, in which the former president participated. By all accounts, Eko Atlantic represents a staggeringly ambitious undertaking: the dredging of millions of tons of sand from the sea floor off Victoria Island and the creation of an estimated 3.5 square miles of new land, on which the Chagourys aim to establish what they call a “21st century city … for residential, commercial, financial and tourist development.”
Mr. Clinton toured the Eko Atlantic site for the second time on February 21, 2013 – twenty days after his wife left the State Department – to celebrate the Chagourys’ reclamation of 5 million square meters of land, a critical juncture in the project.