PATERSON – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8) today called upon U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to investigate would-be New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov upon revelations in today’s edition of The New York Post that the Russian billionaire has been doing business in Zimbabwe. Prokhorov’s dealings in the nation oppressed by dictator Robert Mugabe’s regime are in apparent violation of U.S. economic sanctions that have been in place since 2003.
The congressman also wrote today to NBA Commissioner David Stern asking if the basketball league became aware of Prokhorov’s business interests in Zimbabwe during the thorough background check it pledged to conduct.
The text of the letters follows:
April 11, 2010
The Honorable Timothy F. Geithner
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 3134
Washington, DC 20220
Dear Secretary Geithner:
I write to you today in regards to recent revelations that Mr. Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian national, has purportedly done business with the government of Zimbabwe, which is subject to United States sanctions. This is of great concern, as Mr. Prokhorov has extensive business dealings in the United States, including his most recent efforts to purchase the New Jersey Nets NBA franchise.
Mr. Prokhorov owns a substantial stake in a Russian investment bank, Renaissance Capital, through his company Onexim. Mr. Prokhorov reportedly controls nearly 50% of the investment bank, which recently sponsored an economic summit in Zimbabwe this past February on behalf of the government. Zimbabwe, as you know, is ruled under a brutal, autocratic and repressive regime controlled by the dictator Robert Mugabe. The government of Zimbabwe suppresses freedom of speech and assembly, and reportedly restricts access to food in opposition areas.
As you are aware, because of the government’s reprehensible behavior and treatment of its people, Zimbabwe has been the target of United States sanctions since 2003. The sanctions allow you, as Secretary of the Treasury, to seize the American assets of any individual who is found to “have materially assisted, sponsored or provided financial, logistical or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, the Government of Zimbabwe, any senior official thereof, or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to Executive Order 13288, Executive 13391, or this order.”
I would respectfully request that you investigate all of Mr. Prokhorov’s business dealings in Zimbabwe, specifically the February 2010 economic summit, and whether they violate the United States’ sanctions regime against the country.
I thank you for your prompt attention to this request and look forward to the favor of your reply.
Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Member of Congress
April 11, 2010
Mr. David J. Stern
National Basketball Association
645 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10022
Dear Mr. Stern:
In September of last year, after news of the potential sale of the New Jersey Nets to Mr. Mikhail Prokhorov was made public, I wrote to your office raising my concerns with Mr. Prokhorov’s background and character, due to the intense scrutiny they had received in both his home country and abroad. I was relieved to receive a response from your President of League and Basketball Operations assuring me that Mr. Prokhorov would receive a thorough background investigation of his business, character, and personal reputation.
I was therefore troubled by a recent article in the New York Post reporting on several business deals conducted in Zimbabwe by a Russian investment bank of which Mr. Prokhorov has a substantial ownership stake. As you are no doubt aware, the people of Zimbabwe live under a brutal, autocratic and repressive regime controlled by the dictator Robert Mugabe. The government of Zimbabwe suppresses freedom of speech and assembly, and reportedly restricts access to food in opposition areas.
Because of the government’s reprehensible behavior and treatment of its people, Zimbabwe has been targeted by United States sanctions since 2003. These sanctions, most recently renewed by President Obama in 2009, allow the Secretary of the Treasury to freeze the assets of anyone found to have engaged in actions or policies to undermine Zimbabwe's democratic processes or institutions. I have written to Secretary Geithner to ascertain the Treasury Department’s position on whether or not Mr. Prokhorov’s possible ownership of the Nets and his business dealing in Zimbabwe would in fact violate United States law.
Regardless, any business dealings by Mr. Prokhorov in a country that routinely violates human rights raises significant concerns as to his character and fitness to be an owner of a NBA franchise, whose players serve as role models for millions of young Americans around the country. I am curious as to whether your “thorough background investigation” of Mr. Prokhorov’s businesses uncovered his businesses in Zimbabwe and what impact these actions had on your consideration of him for fitness as owner of the New Jersey Nets.
I thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to the favor of your reply.
Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Member of Congress