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Group: Rich Reps Sought Pardon Help

March 29, 2001

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NEW YORK (AP) _ The head of the American Jewish Congress says representatives of Marc Rich offered a donation to the AJC if the organization would support his application for a pardon.

``It was made known to us that if we were to speak favorably of Mr. Rich, we would be the beneficiary of a gift,″ Phil Baum, executive director of the AJC, said Tuesday.

The organization did not write a letter supporting Rich, and he did not make a donation, Baum said.

``We said we’d be glad to accept a gift but it cannot be done with any expectation or any hope at all,″ he said.

Less than a week ago, the head of another major Jewish organization, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, said he erred in writing a letter of support for Rich. The ex-fugitive financier’s foundation pledged $100,000 to the ADL months before his lawyers sought a pardon for him.

Baum said his organization was ``approached by Rich representatives to do the same thing and we declined to do so.″

``There was no direct quid pro quo, but there was an understanding communicated to us,″ Baum said.

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel said Wednesday that he was also asked to write a letter supporting Rich’s pardon, but that there was no implied promise of a gift.

``I was approached, but I was not offered any money,″ the author and humanitarian activist said. He declined to write the letter.

Calls placed Wednesday to the Rich Foundation, headquartered in Tel Aviv, and to the home of Avner Azulay, who heads the organization, were not immediately returned.

Rich was left the United States in 1983 rather than face racketeering and other criminal charges.

President Clinton pardoned Rich in the final hours of his presidency and said he made his decision in part at the urging of Jewish leaders who cited Rich’s extensive philanthropy. Rich, a billionaire, has given $100 million to charities in Israel and elsewhere.

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