Alexi Giannoulias is no stranger to controversial business relationships: As chief loan officer at his family’s Broadway Bank, the Illinois Democrat running for President Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat authorized loans to convicted organized crime leaders like Michael “Jaws” Giorango (a pimp and bookmaker) and Demitri Stavropoulos (an illegal gambling operator). Giannoulias also serviced loans for convicted felon Tony Rezko.
And, just last week, a Chicago businessman who contributed $115,000 to Giannoulias’s campaign and received millions in loans from Broadway Bank was arrested on bank fraud charges as he attempted to flee the country.
Giannoulias, currently the state treasurer of Illinois, has some disturbing, if indirect, business connections to Iran.
Although several legislative efforts in Congress are currently in the works to apply more sanctions to Iran, and although Giannoulias has called Iran “the greatest single threat to peace in the Middle East,” when it comes to his personal finances, however, Giannoulias does not apply the same standards.
Giannoulias owns stock in his family’s Giannoulias Enterprises, a limited partnership that owns several properties in Chicago. Giannoulias’s brother, Demetris, serves as the president.
In April 2007, Giannoulias Enterprises refinanced its real estate portfolio, taking out a $21.5 million, 10-year loan on six properties – four of them being the locations of the family’s Broadway Bank. With all the banks in the world to choose from, Giannoulias Enterprises selected the French investment bank Natixis – an institution with a long and public history of doing business in Iran.
In 2007, the French bank held $117 million in deposits from the Central Bank of Iran. Later that year, the bank’s Iranian deposits were frozen when U.S. courts ordered the Iranian Government to pay $87.5 million to American victims of Iranian-backed terrorism.
That’s right. The same year Natixis held $117 million in deposits from the Central Bank of Iran, the Giannoulias family took out a $21.5 million loan.
And it’s hard to claim ignorance when the French bank’s involvement in Iran was widely reported for years. One would assume the Giannouliases understood whom they were doing business with.
In 2005, Natexis – which merged with IXIS to form Natixis in 2006 - participated in a $108 million refinancing deal for three oil tankers owned by the state-owned National Iranian Tanker Company. It also participated in a $1.1 billion loan to finance new facilities for National Iranian Tanker Co. in South Korea.
In 2004, the Financial Times reported that Natexis participated in a $1.745 billion financing package for National Iranian Oil Company to develop its South Pars natural gas fields.
In 2002, the AFP reported that the bank partnered with an Iranian bank, Karafarin Bank, to create an Iran-based leasing company for Iranian businesses. Also in 2002, the bank helped arrange $164 million in financing for Iran’s National Petrochemical Company to build an ethylene plant.
In 2001, the AFP reported that the bank participated in an $882 million syndicated loan to Iran’s National Petrochemical Company.
Alexi Giannoulias has some explaining to do.