Speakers pull out of Obiang charity bash

 

Los Angeles

Bill Clinton sits on the board of directors of a US charity that has controversially decided to hold its prestigious biennial "human rights" conference on the home territory of one of Africa's most corrupt dictators.

The former US President is listed as “honorary chairman” of the Leon H Sullivan Foundation on the most recent documents it filed with the American tax authorities. According to the paperwork, he spends two hours each week working for the organisation.

Clinton’s ties to the charity came under scrutiny at the weekend, after The Independent reported that its ninth “Sullivan Summit” was to be hosted this month in Equatorial Guinea by the country’s notoriously kleptocratic president, Teodoro Obiang.

Human rights groups dubbed the event “the equivalent of organising a conference on free speech in North Korea.” In the 33 years since he seized power, Obiang has rigged elections, imprisoned political opponents, and illegally enriched himself to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Obiang and his family is currently facing prosecution in the US, France, and Spain. The US authorities describe them as criminals. And on Friday, the French government seized a Paris mansion the Obiangs have allegedly purchased using the proceeds of corruption.

Despite this track record, the Sullivan Foundation has refused to discuss its decision to allow Obiang host the Summit, and has not replied to emails asking whether it, or its directors, will benefit financially from the event.

After The Independent’s report on the Summit was published, it emerged that John Hope Bryant, one of its keynote speakers, had withdrawn. His motives are unclear.

It has also emerged that every mention of Mr Clinton’s chairmanship of the Sullivan Foundation was recently removed from its website. That has prompted speculation that Clinton – who, according to the November tax forms, is also a trustee of the Foundation – is attempting to downplay or conceal his role.

Mr Clinton’s office did not respond to The Independent’s queries yesterday. Aly Ramji, a spokesman for the Sullivan Foundation, refused to discuss why all mentions the former President’s chairmanship had disappeared from its website.

That isn’t good enough for the Human Rights Foundation, one of several pressure groups calling for the Summit to be canceled. Its founder, Thor Halvorssen, urged him to urgently clarify his role. “Mr Clinton’s wife is US Secretary of State," he said. "It seems perplexing that he would allow himself to be so closely associated with a vile dictator.”

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