Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 173

On September 17, Tony and Hugh Rodham, brothers of U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton, pulled out–at the insistence of the White House–of the business venture which they had launched last month in Tbilisi and Batumi. The project, known as Argo International, called for investing US$118 million over a six-year period to boost Georgia’s output and export of walnuts, a traditional Georgian product with good export potential (details in the Monitor, August 31).

The joint venture’s investment was to have focused on Ajaria, whose leader Aslan Abashidze was quick to portray the Rodhams’ project as signifying “political support rendered to him by U.S. President Bill Clinton.” The Rodhams publicly fraternized with Abashidze, who is the standard bearer of the leftist and Russian-oriented opposition to President Eduard Shevardnadze and his Union of Citizens of Georgia in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections (see the Monitor, July 14, August 4). Intelligence reports in the West and press reports in Georgia suggest, moreover, that Abashidze has connections with Grigory Loutchansky, a purported international mobster whose past contacts with the Democratic Party’s campaign organization in Washington had embarrassed the White House.

According to a statement issued on their behalf, the Rodham brothers withdrew from the project because they did not want “to do any harm to the First Lady or the [Clinton] administration.” The Monitor first reported the Rodhams’ venture on August 31 from Georgian sources; The Washington Post first reported the venture’s demise from sources in the U.S. capital on September 16-17 (Washington Post, September 16-17; International Herald Tribune, September 18-19).