Lawmakers in Shock as Clinton Pardons Tax Fugitive

Law enforcement officials are angry that former president Bill Clinton has pardoned Marc Rich, a tax fugitive for the past 17 years.

Just before President Clinton left office, he pardoned 140 people, one of whom was Mr. Rich - a billionaire oil trader who fled to Switzerland in 1983 to escape being indicted on 65 counts of tax evasion, racketeering and other offences.

Mr. Rich was also accused of trading with Iran at a time when Americans were being held hostage at the US embassy in Tehran. His company paid $200 million in fines, but the U.S. Justice Department mounted an operation to apprehend him.

New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani, a prosecutor on the case, said, "I'm shocked that the President should pardon this man. He never paid a price. He got on an airplane, took all his records, and ran off to Switzerland where he has remained as a fugitive since then. He has made untold efforts to try to get the charges reduced, including many, many overtures and entreaties based on the use of influence."

Bill Clinton is a friend of Mr. Rich's former wife, Denise, who raised large sums of money for the Democratic Party. She has contributed more than $600,000 in recent years, including $120,000 to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's recent campaign.

Questioned about the pardon, Clinton said, "I think there are very good reasons for the pardon and I think I couldn't say them any better than Jack Quinn, Mr Rich's attorney."

Mr Quinn used to be Mr Clinton's White House counsel.

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