Thursday, June 29, 2006

A blast from the past

Reader and fellow Hillbilly Ecosystem member Do-San asks if the Tongsun Park involved in the Oil-for-Food scandal is the same individual who was involved in a Carter-era financial scandal. It is the same man. It seems that some people never change.

From The Washington Post:

"An American success story" was how Tongsun Park described himself when he first came to the attention of the media and the FBI, in 1977, with gifts of hundreds of thousands of dollars to prominent politicians in an influence-peddling scandal that came to be known as "Koreagate."

More than a quarter of a century later, the South Korean businessman is back in the news, the subject of a federal arrest warrant that alleges he acted as an intermediary with corrupt U.N. officials in an oil-for-food conspiracy orchestrated by then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The criminal complaint charges that Park received at least $2 million from Iraq, much of it in cash delivered by diplomatic pouch from Baghdad.

Dubbed the "Oriental Gatsby" by the media because of his lavish Georgetown parties, Park put together an impressive list of friends and clients over the years, including former Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega, U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards. His charm was legendary, as was his habit of disbursing white envelopes stuffed with as much as $20,000 in cash to congressmen as part of a lobbying campaign financed by South Korean intelligence.

"Washington is a marvelous city for someone like me," he told the House ethics committee in April 1978. "Where else could a foreigner, an outsider like myself, do the things I was able to do?"

Although the payments to congressmen caused a scandal, Park was never convicted of wrongdoing in a U.S. court. He fled to South Korea when news of the scandal broke, and charges of bribery and conspiracy were dropped after he agreed to return to the United States and testify before Congress. His biggest problems came with the Internal Revenue Service, which said he owed millions of dollars in back taxes for not reporting his commissions.