Ex-judge 'to tell all on Clinton deal'

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The Independent Online
A CENTRAL figure in the controversy over the Clintons' business dealings in Arkansas appears in court in Little Rock today after agreeing to a plea-bargain with federal prosecutors. David Hale is expected to plead guilty to two charges and promise to tell all he knows about the Clintons and a dollars 300,000 (pounds 201,000) loan he says he was pressed into giving to a friend of Mr Clinton's.

Mr Hale is accused of conspiring to defraud the Small Business Administration by inflating the value of his company to get more money.

The plea is the first breakthrough for the inquiry by the special prosecutor, Robert Fiske, since it allows Mr Hale, a former judge, to start testifying immediately to a grand jury. Mr Clinton has denied knowing anything about the loan, which was made eight years ago to Susan McDougal, wife of the Clintons' business partner James McDougal.

The Senate majority leader, George Mitchell, and his Republican counterpart are to discuss today the timing of hearings on Whitewater.

It is unclear how much damage Mr Hale's testimony will do. When his office was raided last year the FBI found documents linking him to Madison Guaranty, the savings bank once owned by Mr McDougal. Mr McDougal says dollars 900,000 flowed from Madison into Mr Hale's company. Another dollars 250,000 went to companies associated with Jim Tucker, Governor of Arkansas, who took over from Mr Clinton.

Mr Hale tried to plea-bargain last year, saying he had damaging information about the Clintons and other political figures.