Marc Rich Tied to Russian Mafia?

ByABC News
March 2, 2001, 5:48 PM

March 2 -- Eighteen years ago Marc Rich, the billionaire who was pardoned by President Clinton, left behind charges of tax fraud and racketeering. What has he been doing since?

A lawsuit filed by three international companies reveals Rich was doing business last summer, just months before his pardon with known Russian mobsters.

The suit accuses the Russians of illegally taking control of the aluminum industry through extortion, fraud, money laundering and murder.

"In the aluminum industry the level of ruthlessness was unmatched," says Jonathan Winer, the former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Matters. "You cannot find another sector in Russia where more people per transaction wound up dead."

Sources tell ABCNEWS Rich bought aluminum from the Russians to sell in the United States.

The proceeds from one transaction of $1.4 million allegedly was wired to a Rich account, apparently to a bank in the South Pacific known for money laundering.

According to the lawsuit, the company Rich with was doing business with is controlled by Mikhail Chernoi, a notorious and feared businessman.

Is it possible to be doing business with these people and not know how they 'do' business? "No, it isn't," answers Winer.

Rich's lawyers did not return phone calls today.

There is no indication the White House was aware of the information, even though the lawsuit was filed in December and is a public document.

"This information is simply more evidence of how undeserving Marc Rich was for a pardon," says Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan public policy organization.

Congressional investigators are interested in finding out about Rich's Russian activities, but much of the material is classified and off-limits.