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Published on September 10th, 2010 | by Eli Clifton

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Bruce McColm’s Dealings With Equatorial Guinea

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When not teaming up with the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), the Iraqi National Congress (INC), or serving as a contact address for Ahmed Chalabi, the organizations based at 911 Duke St. in Alexandria, Virginia, have another rather distasteful connection which Iran Policy Committee (IPC) “Empowerment Committee Chairman” Bruce McColm would probably prefer to forget. Back in 2004, he was one of the individuals mentioned in the money laundering investigation into Riggs Bank.

That year, the Senate published a money laundering investigation (PDF) into Riggs Bank which showed that the bank, one of the biggest in Washington, D.C., had received most of the oil revenues from Equatorial Guinea. At least $35 million of these revenues were siphoned off by Equatorial Guinean president and notorious human rights abuser Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, his family and other top officials.

As part of this investigation, it was revealed that Bruce McColm’s International Decision Strategies, at 911 Duke St. in Alexandria, VA, was partnered with Teodoro Obiang in Nusiteles, an Equatorial Guinean company planning to bring telephone and computer services to the oil rich, but infamously corrupt, West African country.

But that wasn’t the totality of McColm’s involvement with Obiang.

The Senate report also reveals that McColm had a lucrative side job monitoring elections in Equatorial Guinea. Between 2000 and 2002, McColm’s Institute for Democratic Strategies received $525,000 from the government of Equatorial Guinea for its election monitoring services.  While McColm’s Institute for Democratic Strategies lists its mission as, “to promote good governance and democracy in emerging economies,” Obiang’s strategies were anything but democratic.

It’s unclear what exactly McColm and his team monitored in the 2002 election in which all opposition candidates for president mysteriously dropped out before the election and where Obiang was reelected with nearly 100-percent of the vote.

The BBC wrote:

But an observer monitoring the election for a US-based NGO, Ahmed Rajab, has said that Mr Obiang’s entourage is embarrassed by what has already been described as a “Saddam scenario”.

Interior Minister Clemente Engonga described as “unlawful” the last-minute decision by the four opposition candidates to withdraw from the poll.

The four said the poll was marred by irregularities.

During Senate hearings on the Riggs Bank money laundering investigation, the bank’s president, Lawrence I. Herbert, told the Senate subcommittee that when he realized his bank was doing business with the corrupt but oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, he sought “independent verification of what was going on in the country.” Herbert arranged for McColm to brief the banks top executives.

The Washington Post‘s Kathleen Day wrote:

McColm, in a 45-minute talk at Riggs’s executive downtown offices in Washington, painted a favorable picture of Obiang and his regime, McColm said in interviews. Riggs executives told Senate staff members during a year-long subcommittee investigation of Riggs that they relied on McColm’s portrait to justify doing business with Equatorial Guinea.

Herbert said he was unaware of McColm’s business and non-profit ties to Equatorial Guinea, which created a considerable conflict of interest when he briefed Riggs Bank executives. Riggs Bank, it turns out, was also setting up financing for McColm and Obiang’s joint business venture, Nusiteles.

The sheer number of organizations, both non-profit and for-profit which have been run out of Bruce McColm’s 911 Duke St. offices is impressive. What’s even more striking is McColm’s apparent willingness to do business with individuals, such as Ahmed Chalabi and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who have little regard for good governance of the western style democratic values that McColm claims to promote through the IPC or the Institute for Democratic Strategies.

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About the Author

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Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. Eli previously reported for the American Independent New Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



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