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A conversation with the B.A.I.O. A coversation about "South Side religious leader Prince Asiel Ben Israel pleads guilty in Mugabe scheme"
April 11, 2014 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- A longtime Chicago political activist admits in court Friday that he worked for the Zimbabwe government, but never registered, as required by law, with the United States Attorney General, but as he entered a guilty plea, his co-defendant and lifelong friend vowed he will not accept a plea bargain and plans to go to trial.
Prince Asiel Ben Israel faced federal allegations that Zimbabwe would pay him and his co-defendant, C. Gregory Turner, $3.4 million to ultimately set up political meetings to have sanctions lifted against the African country.
Friday, Ben Israel admitted he never notified the U.S. Government that he was working for Zimbabwe."Rather than take the people who believe in me and family of mine through a long trial, I agree to accept that responsibility of not registering," he said.
"You might describe it as a technical violation of the law," said attorney Ray Pijon. "Certainly it's a violation of the law. There is no question about that."
In Friday's plea agreement, prosecutors alleged that throughout 2009, the defendants tried to have U.S. and Illinois politicians travel to meet officials of Zimbabwe both in that country and South Africa. The goal was to lift U.S. trade sanctions prompted by Dictator Robert Mugabe's regime. Ben Israel today defended his work in Africa.
"I didn't know that the work I've been doing for the last 40 years, I needed to register," he said.
His co-defendant, C. Gregory Turner, is taking a different legal approach and plans to go to trial.
"We are going to fight this to the bitter end from a technical and factual point of view," Turner said.
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