FBI Called Off 1997 Sting on Gingrich on Arms Deal Bribery Case
Gingrich's second wife allegedly set up $10 million bribe scheme to lift Iraq weapons embargo
According to a D.C. investigative news outlet called D.C. Bureau, Newt Gingrich almost was the target of a an FBI sting when he was Speaker of the House in 1997 when his then-wife Marianne allegedly got entangled with an international weapons dealer who was looking to collect millions from Iraq for arms sold there.
An FBI investigation was at least started when one of its informants, Sarkis Soghanalian, told federal prosecutors that Marianne Gingrich told him she could get her husband to lift an Iraq arms embargo in exchange for $10 million. At issues was an $80 debt Soghanalian was trying to collect from Saddam Hussein for weapons he sold to him during the Iraq-Iran war.
Gingrich disputes all of this, calling it "hogwash," but a man who supposedly set up the arrangement between her and Soghanalian isn't exactly shying away from the accusation. After Marianne Gingrich met with Soghanalian in Paris in 1995, when the bribery talks allegedly were broached, a Miami car salesman named Morty Bennett followed up on the discussion, calling Soghanalian on Gingrich's behalf to tell him that it would cost $10 million to have Marianne have her husband get the embargo lifted.
Contacted by The Washington Post, Bennett said, "I knew somebody and introduced them to somebody and that was it. Thank you for calling, and don't call me back."
D.C. Bureau journalist Joseph Trento interviewed Soghanalian before he died this past October to get this scoop. Writes Trento:
For several years, FBI agents instructed Soghanalian to get beyond the men who claimed to have ties to Gingrich and insist upon meeting with Gingrich and his former wife directly to prove that they could deliver the Speaker. But just before Soghanalian was to meet Gingrich and his former wife at a private Miami Beach fundraiser on June 8, 1997, arranged by one of these men, FBI headquarters called off the investigation. Washington ordered the FBI in Miami not to secretly tape record the fundraiser and to stop Soghanalian from attending. Marianne Gingrich, in a series of telephone interviews from her homes in Georgia and Florida, acknowledges meeting the arms dealer in Paris but insists her participation was to solicit an investment from Soghanalian for her former employer, the Israel Export Development Corporation (IEDC). She says the company was running short on cash and her meetings with the arms dealer had nothing to do with Iraq and arms dealing. Newt Gingrich did not return repeated telephone calls for comment.
The FBI called off the investigation apparently because there wasn't enough evidence to implicate the Gingrichs. Contacted by The Washington Post, neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice would comment on the case.