Chiquita - A search warrant that nobody can find - obstruction of justice by DOJ ? "Torture memo" memories cloud folks memories
On Monday, January 28, 2008 we posted - Chiquita Brands have a very bad year - and have stopped paying protection to Colombian para militaries . This detailed how the company had to pay a US$25 Mn. fine when it was disclosed that Chiquita and several unnamed high-ranking corporate officers had aid about US $1.7 million through a Columbian subsidiary (now sold of) , called Banadex for protection between 1997 and 2004 to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia--AUC) - which was designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization in September 2001.
As a consequence a little known, complicated, technical matter ,of a search warrant issued on March 24, 2004, at Chiquita's corporate headquarters in Cincinnati has become the subject of forensic attention.
The case against Chiquita was brought jointly by officials in the Justice Department's main headquarters and the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Roscoe Howard Jr. Roscoe Howard and Daniel Seikaly, head of the criminal division in Howard's office (both now partners in Troutman Sanders DC) asked for the warrant in order to search for enough evidence to charge certain executives at Chiquita.
Now 3 years later following a story in Corporate Counsel last December, attorney Robert Litt a partner at Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C., who represented Robert Olson, Chiquita's former general counsel, ( who retired in 2006 ) claims no search warrant was ever actually served on Chiquita.
At the time Chiquita had some blue chip defence counsel including former Attorney General (1988-91 under both Reagan and Dubya's Dad - famous for attacking white collar crime ) Richard "Dick" Thornburgh, who is now of counsel at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis - where he started his legal career. ( He has the dubious distinction that his campaign committee when he stood for the Senate in 1991 was sued (successfully) by Karl Rove who collec ted US$180,000 for his troubles).
Curiously a "highly placed Justice official " now confirms that no warrant was executed although Roscoe Howard Jr says he still believes a warrant was both obtained and executed and furthermore the DOJ is "stonewalling" for reasons he doesn't understand - nor will former colleagues at the DOJ discuss it with him or Daniel Seikaly.
Apparently issuing the warant was a sub ject of discussion and division David "Dave" Nahmias (now the U.S. Attorney for Atlanta and his surname is pronounced NAH-me-us see pic ), -- Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division to Christopher Wray, who headed Justice's criminal division at the time -- spent several days trying to talk Howard out of it. Nahmias - who was responsible for supervision of the Counterterrorism Section - argued that Chiquita had already self-disclosed its terrorist ties and was cooperating with the Justice Department. Dave is now also Chairman of two of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of United State Attorneys (AGAC) most important subcommittees: Terrorism and National Security (September 2005-October 2007) and White Collar Crime (October 2007-present).
Corporate Counsel chased up DOJ contacts to discuss Litt's objections and were directed to Dean Boyd, chief spokesman of Wainstein's national security division. Boyd declined to answer questions about the warrant, saying, "We never publicly discuss internal deliberations."
If you are still with us so far, Wainstein was chief of staff to the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at the time of the isue of the warrant which would have been responsible for serving it and so played a key role in the Chiquita probe.
Which is all very curious ;
1. Robert Litt says there was no search warrant issued or executed.
2. Howard and Seikaly think a warrant was issued and served - they did in fact ask for one.
2. The DOJ today seem unable to confirm or deny a warrant was issued and executed.
Of course if someone in the DOJ did block the warrant ( as is claimed by some ) to search Chiquita corporate headquarters in Cincinnati it would add up to obstruction of justice. Which doesn't look good when the company was fielding an ex Attorney General who has served in the Justice Department under five Presidents as counsel.
Blocking a warrant, why that would be like the DOJ / Attorney General firing U.S. Attorneys for not being loyal to President Bush - things like that just don't happen.
PS : When Dave Nahamias was being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee to serve as a U.S. Attorney in Georgia Senator Leahy made a few observation s..
" Mr. Nahmias has held senior positions at the Department of Justice and unequivocally supported broad executive power in the war on terror – positions that the Supreme Court has soundly rejected. At the Department of Justice, he has worked on the legal underpinnings of the President’s war against terror and given speeches about enemy combatants and the applicability of the Geneva Conventions, among other issues. "
" ...he has unequivocally supported the President’s authority as Commander in Chief to designate and detain suspected terrorists, including American citizens, as enemy combatants without judicial review by an Article III court. In the case of the American citizens detained as enemy combatants, he argued that there was no reason for judicial review of their detentions because they, “received the absolute ultimate executive branch process,” because the “President of the United States, operating as the Commander-in-Chief, personally reviewed their cases, and personally designated them as enemy combatants.”
Mr Leahy referred to the nomination of Jay Bybee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals - confirmed to a lifetime position on the Ninth Circuit by the Senate on March 13, 2003 by a vote of 74-19.
"Since his confirmation, we have learned of the “torture memo” that he signed in August 2002, while his nomination was pending for consideration by the Senate. In this memo he advised the President that he could ignore laws forbidding torture, in violation of international law, and that individuals acting pursuant to the president’s commander-in-chief authority could be shielded from prosecution under U.S. torture statutes and the U.N. Convention Against Torture for torturing detainees. Mr. Bybee’s aggressive and partisan legal work for the President apparently earned him a promotion to a lifetime job on the federal bench. "
Mr Leahy went on to point out ...
"As we all now know, Mr. Bybee’s torture memo was written during Mr. Nahmias’ tenure at the Department. This memo redefined torture to allow all sorts of brutal treatment (such as mock burial alive, simulated drowning, electrocution, tearing off of fingernails, and other such barbaric treatment) so long as the pain caused is not akin to organ failure, and concluded that, as commander in chief in the war against terror, the President and federal agents are not constrained by anti-terror laws.
Before confirming Mr. Nahmias to this important appointment, Senators should know what role he played in the development of this policy."
Now why would a guy like David (call me "Dave")Nahamias want to argue against the Chiquita search warrant ? It won't have anything to do with Carl H Lindner Junior , one of the world's richest people. He bought Chiquita from Daddy Bush in 1984 (It was United Brands then and George's Zapata Corp. had a major interest***) to help him out when things went sour and they couldn't fix the elections of the President in some South American ..er..banana republic. .. and the fabulously rich family are still staunch and faithful financial supporters of the Republican party and Dubya.
Lindner (a strict Baptist who doesn't smoke, drink or swear) was one of the first 23 "Rangers" - raised at least $200,000 for Dubya for '04 , contributed $200,000 for the Bush-Cheney inauguration ($100,000 from Lindner and $100,000 from American Financial Group), During the 2002 Senate elections, Lindner and his family contributed $450,000 to Republicans. He hosted a September 2003 fundraiser at his home in the Cincinnati suburb of Indian Hill, which raised an estimated $1.7 million for Bush '04. (Common Cause) Joe Hagin took leave of absence from his job as Vice President of corporate affairs at Chiquita Brands International Inc. to be in charge of scheduling for the Texas governor george Bush in 2000 - he had previously worked with Daddy Bush's campaigns and in his Vice President's office.
When Corporate Counsel contacted David (call me "Dave") Nahmias at his office in Atlanta, the Attorney General, " declined to comment for this story". If you want to read more about the work of Attorney General Nahmias this will make you sit up."2 Atlanta Police officers have pleaded guilty to charges that will put them in jail for ten to twelve years each"
**** Lindner was no strange to the travails of dealing in banana and the republics that grew them, American Financial, one of millionaire Carl H Lindner, Jr.’s companies, first bought into a chunk of United Brands after corporate raider Eli M Black committed suicide by jumping out of his office , after bashing out the window with his briefcase on the 44th floor of the Pan Am Building in New York City on February 3rd 1975.