Uranium One

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Uranium One Inc.
Industry Mining
Founded 2005
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Key people
Eduards Smirnovs (CEO)[1]
Products Uranium
Gold
Number of employees
201–500[2]
Parent Rosatom
Website www.uranium1.com

Uranium One is a Russian-Canadian uranium mining company with headquarters in Toronto, Ontario.[3] It has operations in Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, South Africa and the United States. In 2010, Rosatom, the Russian state-owned uranium monopoly, through its subsidiary ARMZ, bought a 51.4% controlling interest in the Canadian company. In January 2013 Rosatom purchased the remaining 48.6% of the company, at a value of $1.3 billion.[4]

Since 2015 the sale of Uranium One to Rosatom had been characterized by conservative media in the United States as a bribery scandal involving Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation; no evidence of wrongdoing has been found after three years of allegations, an FBI investigation, and the 2017 appointment of a Federal Attorney to evaluate the investigation.

History[edit]

In 2005 two companies, Canadian Southern Cross Resources Inc.[5] and South African Aflease Gold and Uranium Resources Ltd.,[6] merged under the name SXR Uranium One Inc., a Canadian public company headquartered in Toronto.[7]

In 2007, SXR Uranium One Inc. acquired UrAsia Energy,[8][9] a Canadian firm headquartered in Vancouver which owned stakes in Kazakhy uranium mines,[10] from Frank Giustra, and dropped SXR from its name.[11][12]

In 2009, the Rosatom subsidiary ARMZ acquired 16.6% of shares in Uranium One in exchange for a 50% interest in the Karatau uranium mining project, a joint venture with Kazatomprom.[13] In June 2010, Uranium One acquired 50% and 49% respective interests in southern Kazakhstan-based Akbastau and Zarechnoye uranium mines from ARMZ. In exchange, ARMZ increased its stake in Uranium One to 51%. The acquisition was expected to result in a 60% annual production increase at Uranium One, from approximately 10 million to 16 million pounds.[14][15] The deal was subject to anti-trust and other conditions and was not finalized until the end of 2010, after the companies had obtained Kazakh regulatory approvals, approval under Canadian investment law, clearance by the US Committee on Foreign Investments, and approvals from both the Toronto and Johannesburg stock exchanges.[15] At the time of the 2010 sale, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimated that Uranium One held the extraction rights to about 20 percent of U.S. uranium in the ground;[16] they amounted to 0.2% of the world’s uranium production.[17]

ARMZ took complete control of Uranium One in January 2013 by buying all shares it did not already own.[4] In October 2013, Uranium One Inc. became a private company and a wholly owned indirect subsidiary of Rosatom.[18][19] From 2012 to 2014, an unspecified amount of Uranium was reportedly exported to Canada via a Kentucky-based trucking firm with an existing export license; most of the processed uranium was returned to the U.S., with approximately 25% going to Western Europe and Japan.[20][21]

Allegations of scandal[edit]

Since the 2015 publication of the book Clinton Cash by Breitbart News editor and Steve Bannon collaborator Peter Schweizer, as well as a 2015 New York Times article based in part of Schweizer's book,[22] allegations of a bribery scheme involving Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and the 2010 sale of Uranium One have persisted, primarily in conservative media. Despite nearly three years of discussion and analysis of the matter — as well as an FBI investigation[23] — no evidence of any quid pro quo has surfaced. Numerous Republican politicians and pundits, including President Donald Trump, have insisted that the Clinton-Uranium One story is the "real" Russian scandal, rather than the matters for which Trump is being investigated.

Schweizer allegations[edit]

The circumstances surrounding the 2010 sale of the company to Rosatom have since 2015 been characterized by conservative media in the United States as a bribery scandal involving Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, although after nearly three years of discussion — as well as an FBI investigation[23] — no evidence of any quid pro quo has been found. This characterization largely began with the publication of Schweizer's book which contained several factual errors, including that then-Secretary of State Clinton had veto power to stop the Uranium One sale.[24][25] Several journalists have criticized the book, saying it contains "leaps of logic,"[26] "draws some conclusions that go beyond the available evidence,"[27] "parts of Schweitzer’s reporting fell apart under scrutiny,"[28] and "Schweizer is trafficking in speculation."[29] As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump cited the book, which he claimed “documents how Bill and Hillary used the State Department to enrich their family at America’s expense.”[30] This scandal narrative has been repeated across conservative media, particularly by Sean Hannity, who has stated, "On this program, I have been telling you Uranium One will be one of the biggest scandals this country has ever seen."[31] As of March 2018, the matter was under investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence, House Oversight and Senate Judiciary committees.[32]

In the book Schweizer alleged that the Clinton Foundation received $145 million in pledges and donations in exchange for Hillary Clinton's support of the Uranium One deal. This allegation has been repeated numerous times across conservative media, particularly by Sean Hannity, as evidence of a bribery scheme. However, $31 million of this amount was donated by Frank Giustra in 2005, and another $100 million pledged by him in 2007, the latter amount after he had severed ties with Uranium One. Both cases occurred years before any prospective Uranium One sale to Russian interests was known, and well before anyone knew Hillary Clinton would join the Obama administration in 2009 and might have any role in approving such a deal. PolitiFact identified about $4 million in donations from various Uranium One investors in the years before and after the Russian deal, but these amounts do not appear to be unusual compared to amounts that countless other donors have made to the Clinton Foundation.[33][34][35]

New York Times article[edit]

On April 23, 2015 The New York Times wrote that, during the acquisition, the family foundation of Uranium One's chairman made $2.35 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation. The donations were legal but not publicly disclosed by the Clinton Foundation, despite an agreement with the White House to disclose all contributors.[36] In a follow-up story six days later, The Times clarified that the donations went to "the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (Canada), [which] operates in parallel to a Clinton Foundation project called the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, which is expressly covered by an agreement Mrs. Clinton signed to make all donors public while she led the State Department. However, the foundation maintains that the Canadian partnership is not bound by that agreement and that under Canadian law contributors’ names cannot be made public."[37]

Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin and which was promoting Uranium One stock, paid Bill Clinton $500,000 for a speech in Moscow shortly after the Rosatom acquisition of Uranium One was announced.[38][39]

Giustra and Bill Clinton[edit]

On April 20, 2007 Uranium One acquired UrAsia Energy, a Canadian firm with headquarters in Vancouver, from Frank Giustra, who then resigned from the UrAsia Energy Board of Directors.[40][41] Having severed ties with UrAsia Energy and Uranium One in 2007, Giustra had no evident beneficial interest in the firm's subsequent sale to Rosatom in 2010. UrAsia has interests in rich uranium operations in Kazakhstan,[42] and UrAsia Energy's acquisition of its Kazakhstan uranium interests from Kazatomprom followed a trip to Almaty in 2005 by Giustra and former U.S. President Bill Clinton where they met with Nursultan Nazarbayev, the leader of Kazakhstan. Giustra denies reporting by The New York Times that he and Clinton traveled together to Almaty.[43] Substantial contributions to the Clinton Foundation by Giustra followed,[40][44] with Clinton, Giustra, and Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim in 2007 establishing the Clinton Foundation's Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative to combat poverty in the developing world.[45] In addition to his initial pledge of $100 million, Giustra pledged to contribute half of his future earnings from mining to the initiative.[45] There is no indication that Giustra was contemplating any transaction with Russian interests at the time he began donating to the Clinton Foundation in 2005; rather, he sold UrAsia Energy to Uranium One, a Canadian company, in 2007. That sale was completed two months before he made his pledges to the Clinton Foundation.[46]

Since uranium is considered a strategic asset with national security implications, the acquisition of Uranium One by Rosatom was reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a committee of nine government cabinet departments and agencies including the United States Department of State, which was then headed by Hillary Clinton. Clinton herself did not sit on CFIUS, but rather the State Department was represented by Jose Fernandez, the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, who stated that Clinton was not involved in the Uranium One matter. [47][38][39] Although CFIUS members can object to such a foreign transaction, none did[48], and no member can veto a decision; veto power rests solely with the president.[49][50] CFIUS unanimously approved the Uranium One sale.[51] The Utah Division of Radiation Control and Canada’s foreign investment review agency also approved the transaction.[52][53]

FBI investigation[edit]

By August 2016, the FBI had begun to confidentially investigate the Clinton Foundation, based largely on Schweizer's book and reporting by The New York Times, but they failed to find much evidence to support corruption allegations.[23] As the investigation lay dormant, Attorney General Jeff Sessions in December 2017 ordered Justice Department prosecutors to ask FBI investigators about the evidence they had gathered. Sessions was responding to demands of Republican members of Congress for a special counsel to be appointed to investigate Uranium One and other matters relating to Hillary Clinton and the FBI.[54] CNN reported on March 29, 2018 that Sessions had appointed John W. Huber, the United States Attorney for the District of Utah, to investigate "a cluster of Republican-driven accusations against the FBI," which includes allegations that the FBI acted inappropriately in two matters involving Hillary Clinton, including her emails and the sale of Uranium One to Rosatom. In a letter to three Republican Congressional committee chairmen, Sessions said he would rely on Huber's findings to decide if a special counsel needed to be appointed. Huber had been investigating the matters for a time, but his involvement had not previously been disclosed.[55]

Several members of Clinton's State Department staff and officials from the Obama-era Department of Justice have said that CFIUS reviews are handled by civil servants and that it would be unlikely that Clinton would have had more than nominal involvement in her department's signing off on the acquisition.[56] According to Snopes, the timing of donations might have been questionable if Hillary Clinton had played a key role in approving the deal, but all evidence suggests that she did not and may in fact have had no role in approving the deal at all.[57]

Senate and House investigations[edit]

In October 2017, following a report by John F. Solomon and Alison Spann published in The Hill and citing anonymous sources,[58][59] the House Intelligence Committee opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the sale of Uranium One.[56] The Hill reported, "There is no evidence in any of the public records that the FBI believed that the Clintons or anyone close to them did anything illegal. But there’s definitive evidence the Russians were seeking their influence with a specific eye on the State Department."

In October 2017, President Trump directed the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to lift a "gag order" it had placed on a former FBI informant involved the investigation. The DOJ released the informant from his nondisclosure agreement on October 25, 2017,[60][61][62] authorizing him to provide the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, House Oversight Committee, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence "any information or documents he has concerning alleged corruption or bribery involving transactions in the uranium market" involving Rosatom, its subsidiaries Tenex and Uranium One, and the Clinton Foundation.[63] The informant's lawyer said that the informant "can tell what all the Russians were talking about during the time that all these bribery payments were made."[64] During a C-SPAN interview, Hillary Clinton said that any allegations that she was bribed to approve the Uranium One deal were "baloney."[65] On November 16, 2017, William Douglas Campbell identified himself as the FBI informant. He is a former lobbyist for Tenex, the US-based arm of Russia's Rosatom.[66][67] On March 8, 2018 The Hill reported, "A confidential informant [Campbell] billed by House Republicans as having “explosive” information about the 2010 Uranium One deal approved during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State provided “no evidence of a quid pro quo” involving Clinton, Democratic staff said in a summary of the informant’s closed-door testimony obtained by The Hill on Thursday."[68] CNN reported that the summary document also stated that the Justice Department had expressed concerns about Campbell's credibility due to "inconsistencies between Campbell's statements and documents" in a separate investigation in 2015.[32]

Fact-checking of allegations[edit]

FactCheck.org reported that there was "no evidence" connecting the Uranium One–Rosatom merger deal with a money laundering and bribery case involving a different Rosatom subsidiary which resulted in the conviction of a Russian individual in 2015, contrary to what is implied in the Solomon-Spann story.[36][69] Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post wrote that the problem with some of the accusations that Republican commentators levied against Clinton is that she "by all accounts, did not participate in any discussions regarding the Uranium One sale."[70]

In November 2017, Shepard Smith of Fox News described President Trump's accusations against Clinton regarding Uranium One "inaccurate in a number of ways." Smith said that the sale of Uranium One was "not a Hillary Clinton approval" but instead a unanimous decision by the nine cabinet-level department heads of CFIUS, approved by the president and with permits issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Smith added that "most of the Clinton Foundation donations" came from Frank Giustra, who said he "sold his stake in the company" three years before it was sold to Russia. Lastly, Smith noted that "none of the uranium was exported for use by the U.S. to Russia."[71][72][73]

In January 2018, The New York Post, apparently following a story from a questionable conservative news site, reported "There’s an indictment in the FBI probe of the Uranium One scandal...,"[74] and The Hill cited the Post's story the next day with "A grand jury reportedly brought charges in the Uranium One investigation..."[75] PolitiFact determined that the three stories were false.[76]

2018 developments[edit]

In March 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed that in 2017 he had declined to appoint a special counsel to investigate, among other matters, the alleged connections between Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation and, instead, had appointed John W. Huber, U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah, to look into whether further investigation is warranted.[77][78][79]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]