"A British citizen of Iraqi descent, Mr. Auchi, 70, is a billionaire, the 279th richest man in the world, according to a Forbes magazine survey last year. A great deal of Mr. Auchi's money was made doing business with the regime of Saddam Hussein, much of it under the table. In 1987, Mr. Auchi helped French and Italian firms win a huge oil pipeline contract in Iraq, chiefly by paying off Iraqi officials, according to testimony given by an Italian banker to prosecutors in Milan. In 2003, he was convicted for his role in what was then the largest scandal in French history, involving payoffs from executives of the oil company now known as Total to political figures in Spain, Germany and Africa.
"'He has been able to collect British politicians the way other people collect stamps,' wrote Nick Cohen in a 2003 profile of Mr. Auchi in the left wing British newspaper the Observer.
"Mr. Auchi was a leading supplier of arms to Saddam's regime. A former Belgian ambassador to Luxembourgcharged that a bank in Luxembourg owned principally by Mr. Auchi laundered funds -- including Oil-For-Food money -- for Saddam and other Islamic dictators.
"'The name Nadhmi Auchi was just another name for Saddam's intelligence service, or so we thought,' said Nibras Kazimi, a former Iraqi dissident who is now a visiting scholar at the Hudson Institute in WashingtonD.C.
"Mr. Auchi is a business partner of Syrian-born businessman Antoin 'Tony' Rezko, who has supported Mr. Obama financially since his first run for the Illinois state senate in 1996.
"Mr. Rezko currently is in jail awaiting trial on charges he extorted money from firms seeking to do business with the state of Illinois…. Rezko's bail was revoked Jan. 28 when the trial judge learned that he, friends and relatives had been wired $3.5 million [in May 2005] from firms in Lebanon controlled by Mr. Auchi. The judge feared Mr. Rezko was about to flee the country….
"Mr. Rezko has described Mr. Auchi as a 'close friend.' Mr. Auchi says they have only a business relationship. They've been partners in a chain of pizza restaurants in Wisconsin and in a major real estate development inRiverside Park in Chicago.
"The connection between Mr. Auchi and Sen. Obama is tenuous. But given Mr. Auchi's shady past, his history of bribing politicians, it's not unreasonable to ask if [he], through Mr. Rezko, was trying to buy influence with a rising political star [Obama]."