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NRIs in Illinois scandal

Several eminent Indian-Americans are linked to the corruption scandal involving Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s attempt to sell the Senate seat vacated by president-elect Barack Obama, a report said.

world Updated: Dec 14, 2008 01:04 IST

Several eminent Indian-Americans are linked to the corruption scandal involving Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s attempt to sell the Senate seat vacated by president-elect Barack Obama, a front page investigative report by the Chicago Tribune said.

Blagojevich was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday. He was let off on a $4,500 cash bond but the scandal has hogged headlines in the US.

Obama, who represented Illinois in the US Senate before being elected president, resigned after the elections. Under US laws, the state governor has the authority to nominate his replacement for the rest of the term.

The Chicago Tribune has named several Indian-Americans — all based in Chicago —for holding negotiations on behalf of US Representative Jesse Jackson Jr with Blagojevich over the seat Obama vacated.

Jackson has been named as “Senate Candidate 5” in the FBI charge sheet against the Illinois governor.

The Indian-American supporters of Jackson, the newspaper said, promised to hold a fundraiser for the Illinois governor for his re-election bid and raise more than $1 million in lieu of the Senate seat.

The daily identified one such Indian American as Raghuveer Nayak or Raghu. He owns a series of surgery centres in Chicago.

“Raghu (Nayak) said he needed to raise a million for Rod to make sure Jesse got the seat,” a businessman who attended one of the meetings where requests were made for the fundraiser was quoted as saying by Chicago Tribune.

“He said, ‘I can raise half of it, $500,000.’,” added the businessman, also an Indian American.

Nayak and Jesse Jackson Jr’s brother Jonathan have known each other for a long time and even went into business together some years ago.

Among others named in the report are pharmacist Harish Bhatt and brothers Rajinder Bedi and Jatinder Bedi.

Rajinder is managing director for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Trade and Investment, overseeing offices around the world. Jatinder is editor of the Chicago-based Indian paper, Indian Reporter.

Quoting two unidentified businessmen who attended the fundraiser meetings, the report said Nayak and Rajinder privately told many of the more than two dozen attendees that the fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jackson’s bid for the Senate.