Thursday, May 26, 2005
Don't Expect To See This On US TV Any Time Soon
This is a big story -- in Russia. If this guy had a "D" after his name, you can bet your bottom dollar he'd have been forced to resign from Congress by now after a Gary-Condit-style GOP/Media Axis firestorm. But it's all OK if you're a Republican.
American Lawmaker Banks On Ivanovo
The Commercial Bank of Ivanovo, a small bank even by local standards, is tucked away in the corner of a residential building on the outskirts of town. [Rep. Charles] Taylor [R-NC], the multimillionaire Republican congressman who owns a majority stake in the bank, smiles down benevolently from photographs on a wall in the chairman's office.
"I'd put him in the top 10 congressmen for unethical, scandalous behavior," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a Democratic-leaning research group that has tracked Taylor's business in Russia and North Carolina. "But he's not in the top 10 for attention paid for it. Taylor deserves a little more scrutiny."
U.S. congressmen are permitted to have outside business interests as long as they keep them separate from their public service. For example, members of Congress are not to use their official position for personal gain or to vote on the House floor if they have a personal stake in the outcome. Taylor's purchase of a tiny bank in Ivanovo might have raised fewer eyebrows if not for past legal troubles at Blue Ridge Savings Bank. In 2001, one of Taylor's friends and campaign contributors, Charles "Chig" Cagle, pleaded guilty in a U.S. district court in North Carolina to charges of bank fraud and money laundering after taking out $1.3 million in loans from Blue Ridge. By law, the bank could not lend more than $500,000 to an individual. But Cagle, the owner of a large car dealership, forged the signatures of family members and made fraudulent applications, the court found. Hayes Martin, then president of Blue Ridge, also pleaded guilty for his part in overseeing the loans. Cagle's lawyer, Tom Jones, was found guilty of assisting Cagle in preparing fraudulent documents. In testimony given to the FBI and submitted as evidence in the Jones case, Martin said Taylor, through Financial Guaranty, made a series of loans to Russian companies in the 1990s with interest rates from 30 percent to 60 percent, according to an FBI summary of the testimony provided by Jones' lawyer. For example, Financial Guaranty agreed to loan Ivanovo businessman Sergei Zvonov $100,000 to help finance the construction of a 61-unit apartment building. The loan carried a 60 percent interest rate and stipulated an additional $10,000 payment, according to a copy of the agreement, which was dated Aug. 21, 1995, and signed by Taylor.
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