Sunday, September 18, 2016 3:48 pm
Nigeria based billionaire businessman, Gilbert Chagoury has filed a complaint against the United States Government under the Privacy Act and the Judicial Redress Act for leaking false information to the media, causing great damage to his reputation and property, and denying his Constitutional right to due process.
Defendants in the case are the FBI, the Department of Justice, the National Counter Terrorism Center, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, and US Customs and Border Protection.
The suit is the first Privacy Act Violations and Brings First Known Action under the Judicial Redress Act signed into law by President Barrack Obama in February 2016.
The Act allows foreign citizens in European countries to sue the United States for unlawful disclosure of personal information under the terms of the Privacy Act.
Chagoury, a citizen of the United Kingdom, is bringing the first suit under the Judicial Redress Act.
In the suit, Chagoury said despite his exceptional record of public service and demonstrated commitment to core American values such as religious freedom and his well-known love of the United States and his numerous, generous charitable contributions over 35 years of visiting America, he was was denied a visa by the United States Department of State in 2015.
The Los Angeles Times had in a recent report indicated that Chagoury, was barred from entering the United States and his visa request denied based on alleged links with a terrorist group.
According to the newspaper, the businessman who was born in Nigeria and has dual nationality was denied visa over allegations that he gave financial support to a Lebanese politician, Michael Aoun.
The newspaper said Aoun’s party is in political coalition with Hezbollah, tagged a terrorist organisation by the US.
Hezbollah terror tag stemmed from the double bombings in 1983, killing 63 at the U.S. embassy in Beirut and 241 at a Marine barracks later that year.
A 2913 report by FBI claimed Chagoury sent funds to Aoun, who, in turn, gave the money to Hezbollah. The report said the information was unverified from a source, who also said the Lebanese Christian politician was ‘facilitating fundraising for Hezbollah.’
But Chagoury contended that information the denial of visa was based on was false.
The businessman who is the owner of Eko Hotel among other businesses in Nigeria, complained that the injustice was compounded when anonymous employees of the US Government leaked information about the denial of the visa application, including the false information that led to the visa denial to the media.
He added that because is a successful businessman, an influential advocate for religious freedom, a global philanthropist and a friend of prominent political leaders including many here in the United States, the LA Times published the story.
“This was a deliberate, outrageous and unlawful leak of information and more importantly, misinformation about Gilbert Chagoury. It violated the Privacy Act, the Judicial Redress Act, and his right to due process. He is suing to recover his reputation and the property and business interests that have been unjustly harmed by this irresponsible action,” said Stewart Baker of Steptoe and Johnson, LLP, attorney for Mr. Chagoury.
“At no point in time did Mr. Chagoury provide the Government with either verbal or written consent to disclose any information or misinformation concerning him to third parties,” PR Newswire quoted the lawyer as saying in a statement.
“All of my life, from when I was a boy in Nigeria, I have loved America because it was the land of freedom and justice,” Chagoury said.
“I started coming to the United States over 35 years ago and have done everything I can to help America over my long career. I have close family members who are US citizens. To be falsely linked to terrorism and then have my reputation smeared in the media is an injustice that I could not allow to go unanswered.”
“I have always been told that American justice demands due process, yet I was given no explanation for having my visa revoked and no opportunity to rebut these falsehoods before my reputation was dragged through the mud. That is not the America I know and love. I only want to clear my name.”
The businessman said the intentional leak to the media of false information repeats a similarly unlawful incident from 2010, when he was wrongly placed on the no-fly list, without notice or opportunity to be heard, and his placement on the no-fly list was leaked to the media.
He added that when challenged with facts then, the U.S. Government reversed that decision, formally apologized and allowed him to travel to the United States, which he did multiple times without incident until recently.
Chagoury said as an important industrialist in Nigeria, and an ambassador to the Holy See and UNESCO, he has assisted the U.S. whenever possible, and U.S. Ambassadors and officials often call him to help solve their problems.
The Chagourys have been coming to Los Angeles for over 35 years, visiting family members who are United States citizens and live in the United States.
“Their love of America has led the Chagourys to give generously to several American charitable organizations including St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and the Beverly Hills 9-11 Memorial,” he added.