Newt Gingrich, Marianne and the Arms Dealer: A Buried FBI Investigation
By Joseph Trento
December 13th, 2011
On October 5, Sarkis Soghanalian, once the world’s largest private arms dealer, died at 82. He had sold weapons to scores of dictators including Saddam Hussein, and he took many secrets with him to his grave. But one secret he did not take involves Newt Gingrich when he was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. DCBureau has learned that Gingrich was at the center of a U.S. Justice Department criminal investigation in the late 1990s for a scheme to shake down the arms dealer for a $10 million bribe in exchange for Gingrich using his influence as Speaker to get the Iraq arms embargo lifted so Soghanalian could collect $54 million from Saddam Hussein’s regime for weapons he had delivered during the Iran-Iraq War.
Soghanalian was an FBI informant and was responsible for launching one of the most sensitive and secret investigations in FBI history involving the former Speaker and his second wife. According to Marianne Gingrich, it took the direct intervention of then FBI Director Louis J. Freeh to “get the investigation called off.” Freeh did not return emails and telephone calls for comment.
A convicted felon with a long history of working with United States intelligence, Soghanalian cooperated with the FBI in the two-year investigation which included secretly taping emissaries with connections to Newt and Marianne Gingrich. The cast of characters include personalities no Hollywood screenwriter could invent. One participant was involved in the Florida SunCruz scandal that resulted in the gangland-style killing of one of the cruise lines owners. Another was a used Rolls Royce salesman who pretended to be part of the international arms trade. A third was a penny stock promoter.
For several years, FBI agents instructed Soghanalian to get beyond the men who claimed to have ties to Gingrich and insist upon meeting with Gingrich and his former wife directly to prove that they could deliver the Speaker. But just before Soghanalian was to meet Gingrich and his former wife at a private Miami Beach fundraiser on June 8, 1997, arranged by one of these men, FBI headquarters called off the investigation. Washington ordered the FBI in Miami not to secretly tape record the fundraiser and to stop Soghanalian from attending. Marianne Gingrich, in a series of telephone interviews from her homes in Georgia and Florida, acknowledges meeting the arms dealer in Paris but insists her participation was to solicit an investment from Soghanalian for her former employer, the Israel Export Development Corporation (IEDC). She says the company was running short on cash and her meetings with the arms dealer had nothing to do with Iraq and arms dealing. Newt Gingrich did not return repeated telephone calls for comment.
Soghanalian said in a series of interviews before his death that men associated with Marianne Gingrich convinced him that Speaker Gingrich would use his influence to lift the embargo and allow Soghanalian to collect the millions of dollars owed to him by Iraq “in exchange for a $10 million payment to Gingrich through his associates.” Soghanalian was to pay the money – not to the Gingriches directly – but through a think tank, The Institute for Advanced Strategic & Political Studies (IASPS), which has offices in the United States and Israel.
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