The Treasury Department on Wednesday rejected a request from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan for permission to receive a $1 billion gift from Libya, which has been barred from virtually all economic transactions with U.S. citizens because of it alleged terrorist links.
In a letter to lawyers for Farrakhan, the director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, R. Richard Newcomb, cited several reasons for the denial, including the belief that Libya is “a strong supporter of terrorist groups.”
The denial also bars Farrakhan from receiving the $250,000 prize that comes with a Libyan human rights award he is to receive from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Past winners of the award include South African President Nelson Mandela.
“There is no basis in law or common sense for this action,” said Rufus Cook, a Chicago lawyer representing Farrakhan. “It is an action taken in callous disregard of the needs and hopes of black people.”
Cook added the rejection raises issues that “will be brought before the courts.”
Farrakhan’s request became public last week, when he mentioned it during a speech before the National Association of Black Journalists. Farrakhan has argued the gift should be allowed because the money would be used to support joint ventures with businesses and financial institutions to help blacks and other minorities. But from the beginning, the offer faced obstacles. First, analysts doubted Libya could afford the $1 billion gift. Also, an anti-terrorism law that went into effect last week bars almost all transactions between U.S. citizens and so-called “terrorist” states, including Libya. Violations of the law are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“I think they were doing this for show,” said Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., who offered the amendment tightening the law after Farrakhan visited the Middle East last winter. When asked about Farrakhan’s contention that the gift was strictly for charitable purposes, McCollum said: “It is not Farrakhan’s intentions that bother me. It is Gadhafi’s intentions that bother me. Gadhafi is interested in mischief.”