A Vancouver-based businessman is attracting attention south of the border for any alleged influence he might have over U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
Anyone familiar with the city’s film industry will know Frank Giustra for his work with Lions Gate Entertainment, the studio he founded in 1997 that went on to become one of the most successful in North America. Giustra has also made millions off of mining and, in more recent years, has become a noteworthy philanthropist.
Now, as Clinton’s campaign for president gains momentum, the Washington Post and other American newspapers are looking at Giustra as an example of foreign influence on the family expected to soon lead the United States of America.
Giustra’s relationship with the Clintons began in 2005, the Post reports, when Bill Clinton was looking for a ride to South America. Giustra offered the former U.S. president a private jet on the condition that he accompany Clinton for the ride, and the two found common interests (in Julius Caesar, among other things).
“We hit it off right away,” Giustra said, according to the article.
Since then, the Post reports, Bill has taken 26 trips on that private jet, 13 of which saw him accompanied by Giustra.
There have also been significant financial contributions. According to the Post, Giustra has “committed” more than $100 million to the Clinton Foundation, the couple’s nonprofit organization.
The Post describes Giustra as an example of “foreign donors who are not legally eligible to contribute to U.S. political candidates but grew close to the Clintons through the charity”, and suggests such relationships raise questions “about whether the Clinton Foundation has served as an avenue for wealthy interests to gain entree to a powerful family”.
Giustra is subsequently quoted denying he has sought political influence with the Clintons.
“I have one very specific reason I have a relationship with Bill Clinton: I admire what he does, and I want to be part of it,” he told the Post. “But I’ve never asked him for a damn thing.”
The article does not include any evidence of quid-pro-quo returns on Giustra’s donations to the foundation. It does, however, suggest Giustra may have found benefits in a relationship with one of the world’s most powerful people. Notably, there was a 2005 dinner with Bill Clinton, the president of Kazakhstan, and others. Shortly after that meal, Giustra finalized a purchase of uranium from the central Asian country worth $500 million. (He maintains the deal with done before the dinner, and Bill has said he had “zero” to do with it.)
The Post also raises questions about a Canadian charity Giustra founded and how that organization could serve as a pipeline for foreign money to the Clinton Foundation.
“The foundation said the arrangement conformed with Canadian law,” the Post reports. “But it also opened a way for anonymous donors, including foreign executives with business pending before the Hillary Clinton-led State Department, to direct money to the Clinton Foundation.”
You can read the report by Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Anu Narayanswamy in its entirety here.
The Post is not the first American outlet to make something of Giustra’s friendship with the Clintons. On April 23, the New York Times published a report on the Kazakh uranium deal that caused Giustra to issue a public denial of any role Bill Clinton might have played.
On May 1, the Vancouver Sun ran an interview with Giustra in which he argued that reporters are making false connections. "The whole thing revolves around the presidential contest. Otherwise there’d be zero interest in what I’m doing,” Giustra said. “Every day is a different accusation."