Feb. 17, 2010 — -- A Nigerian businessman who has been a significant financial supporter for former President Bill Clinton was stopped from boarding a private jet last month in New Jersey after law enforcement authorities discovered he had been put on the U.S. government's recently expanded terrorist no-fly list, according to a report of the incident provided to ABCNews.com.
The businessman, Gilbert Chagoury, 64, was prevented from boarding the jet at Teterboro airport in New Jersey on Jan. 15, according to the report. Law enforcement authorities reported they ultimately obtained a "waiver" from Washington to permit Chagoury to fly out of the country to France.
According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the no-fly list is designed to "keep known terrorists off planes." The TSA website says it works with intelligence and law enforcement partners to compile the list and has a "dedicated staff to review and scrub the existing No-Fly list and ensure all nominees meet the standing criteria."
The TSA declined to comment on why or when Chagoury had been placed on the terror no-fly list or who provided the waiver to allow him to board his flight. and referred ABC News to the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) for comment.
A spokesperson for the FBI's TSC also declined to comment about Chagoury, saying the TSC never comments on individual names on the no-fly list.
The spokesperson did say the list is "fluid" and individuals may be moved up or downgraded at any time based on the current threat environment, but "an individual's social status, financial means, and political affiliations are not considered" in an individual being moved up or down the list.
Chagoury's son, Gilbert Jr., confirmed that his father had been stopped by the FBI at Teterboro. He said he would ask his father to call ABC News for further comment but the senior Chagoury has yet to respond.
A Clinton spokesman, Matt McKenna, said the former President's office was unaware of the incident until contacted by ABCNews.com. "We had no role whatsoever" in helping Chagoury get the waiver, said McKenna. "Nor would we ever," he added.
Chagoury is a controversial figure in Africa and Europe but it is the first time there has been any suggestion of alleged ties to terrorism.
Described as a billionaire, Chagoury runs an industrial conglomerate in Nigeria, the Chagoury Group, and had ties to a former corrupt president there.
In 2009 Chagoury pledged $1 billion via the Chagoury Group as part of his commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative, according to the Global Initiative website. Chagoury also recently donated more than $1 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to a list of donors made public by the foundation in December. Members of Chagoury's family were contributors to the 2008 Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.According to the Wall Street Journal, Chagoury's ties to the former president date to 1996 when he donated money "to support then-President Clinton's 1996 re-election effort, and later helped the former president land a lucrative speaking fee."
The money for Clinton's re-election helped to fund a get-out-the-vote effort, which legally can accept contributions from a non-US resident.
Law enforcement authorities say Chagoury was a "positive match" to the Gilbert Chagoury on the terrorism no fly list, based on his date of birth. He was traveling on a British passport which does not require a US visa to enter the country.
According to the law enforcement report, Chagoury also is named on a second watch list called, TIDE, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center.
According to the Center website, the TIDE list is the US government's "central repository on international terrorist identities." Federal agencies nominate individuals for the TIDE list based on possible connections to terrorist organizations or terrorist financing, according to the website.
The report on the incident said a private jet owned by Chagoury was at Teterboro for repairs and he was attempting to leave on a second jet, a Dassault Falcon 900EX.
Chagoury, five passengers and two crew members were all detained by TSA officers who called in agents from the FBI and Customs and Border Patrol.
After being questioned for several hours by the FBI, the crew and passengers were released without incident, according to the report. By the time Chagoury's "waiver" to fly was processed, authorities said, the repairs had been finished on his jet and he departed for Paris on that aircraft.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Chagoury, of Lebanese descent, has also been a financial supporter of Christian politicians and religious leaders in Lebanon.
The paper also cited reports that Chagoury had been the subject of "government investigations into suspected bribery by Western companies that do business in Nigeria."