At a 2006 Gala for his 60th birthday, Bill Clinton praised Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra’s selflessness, saying it was not as if Giustra could “get something out of it,” since Clinton was no longer President and therefore not in a position to do him any favors. That comment came almost exactly one year after Clinton’s overnight trip to Kazakhstan coincided with Giustra closing a uranium mining deal worth billions of dollars.
On September 9, 2006, Bill Clinton, along with then-Senator Hillary Clinton and their daughter Chelsea, held a gala birthday celebration for the ex-President in Toronto, Canada. Clinton gave a speech thanking the star-studded attendees at the event, including Kevin Spacey, Billy Crystal, Josh Groban, Tim McGraw, and Jon Bon Jovi. He also thanked Giustra, who had helped to produce the gala, saying, “When I thought my political career was over, I could never do anything for anybody else again, people like Frank Guistra show up and start helping me when I can’t do anything back for them any more.” Clinton added, “It’s not like I’m President and they can get something out of it. So I thank you for that.” The statement was first highlighted by MorgenR on Twitter Monday morning.
There is some evidence that Giustra had already gotten something out of it. One year earlier, Clinton flew to Kazakstan on Giustra’s private jet. At the time, Giustra was working on closing a uranium mining deal that, according to outside experts, his company was not well-positioned to get relative to various competitors. Few, at the time, thought Giustra had a shot.
Bill Clinton’s overnight visit to Kazakhstan in September 2005 may have changed that. The visit featured a dinner with President Nazarbayev–who has controlled the country since 1991–at which Giustra’s business dealings were brought up. The visit also featured a press conference with Bill Clinton during which the ex-President praised Nazarbayev’s commitment to free and fair elections just three months before Nazarbayev was up for reelection again. (Three months later, President Nazarbayev would win re-election, though outside observers remain skeptical that it was free and fair.)
One day after Giustra and Clinton left Kazakhstan together, Giustra got his deal. The mining agreement transformed Giustra’s company into one of the largest uranium producers in the world almost overnight. Within about six months after the deal closed, Giustra donated $31.3 million to the Clinton Foundation. Initially, the Foundation claimed that amount was a conglomeration of smaller donations, but it eventually admitted it was a lump sum donated by Giustra.
That donation was a pittance compared to the soaring value of Giustra’s company. About 18 months after the mining agreement was signed, Giustra’s company was bought out by a South African mining company called Uranium One in a deal worth $3.1 billion. The core of the deal was the mining agreements made days after Bill Clinton left Kazakhstan.
At about this same time in early 2007, Giustra arranged a private three-hour meeting between Bill Clinton and the head of the Kazakhstan state mining company in Clinton’s New York state home. When asked about this meeting, both Clinton and Giustra initially denied it had taken place. When they were confronted with evidence (a photo showing the state mining head and Clinton inside Clinton’s home) both Giustra and Clinton’s spokesman changed their story and admitted the meeting had taken place.