Clinton Pardon Finds Controversy in N.Y.

ByABC News
January 21, 2001, 5:41 PM

Jan. 21 -- Among the list of people former President Clinton pardoned during his last day in office was an internationally wanted fugitive who has been living in Switzerland for more than 15 years.

The pardon of Marc Rich, a billionaire oil trader who fled the United States in 1983 just before he was indicted for tax evasion and racketeering, has angered some in New York.

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who in his role as U.S. attorney helped bring the criminal charges against Rich in the 1980s said today he was shocked that Clinton pardoned Rich.

"He got on an airplane, took all his records and ran off to Switzerland, where he remained a fugitive since then, spending money buying the town," Giuliani said during a press conference. "He has made untold efforts to try to get the charges reduced including many overtures and entreaties based on the use of influence."

Clinton has attended numerous fundraisers hosted by Rich's ex-wife, Denise, who has contributed more than $600,000 to Democratic causes in recent years.

Rich hired attorney Jack Quinn, who once worked for Clinton, to help him gain the pardon.

Quinn told the White House that changes in the law since 1983 have undercut the case against Rich. He also argued that it would be tough for the billionaire to get a fair trial because of his long stay overseas.

Clinton has portrayed his pardons as acts of mercy for people unfairly entangled in the justice system. He briefly referred to Rich's case today by saying he has a "very compelling case for a pardon."

Rich has citizenship in the United States, Spain andIsrael. He was indicted in 1983 by a U.S. federal grand jury on morethan 50 counts of wire fraud, racketeering, trading with the enemyand evading more than $48 million in income taxes crimes thatcould have earned him more than 300 years in prison.

He allegedly made vast profits through a huge, illegal oilpricing scheme in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis and evaded taxesby shifting profits from his U.S. subsidiary to the parent companyin low-tax Switzerland. He also was accused of making deals withIran during the U.S. embassy hostage crisis in Tehran.