Pascrell not buying Prokhorov denial of Zimbabwe dealings

Rep. Bill Pascrell fired back Tuesday at a statement by a company run by billionaire Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, denying that it had business dealings in Zimbabwe.

Pascrell, D-Paterson, has asked the U.S. Treasury Department to investigate whether U.S.-based companies controlled by Prokhorov — who is expected to buy the New Jersey Nets — violated U.S. sanctions against doing business with Zimbabwe, which has been cited by the United Nations for extensive human rights violations.

That brought a response on Monday from Onexim Group, Prokhorov’s investment fund and an owner of Renaissance Capital, a bank accused of dealings with Zimbabwe.

“Contrary to erroneous media reports, the company and all of its holdings have been in strict compliance with all U.S. and Europeans rules regarding Zimbabwe,” the statement read, adding that no business was conducted with specific companies or individuals on the U.S. sanctions list.

Pascrell responded Tuesday that he was not surprised at the statement, adding that “I’m not going to take them at face value.”

He said he still wants Treasury officials to investigate the matter, and he also criticized the National Basketball Association’s vetting of Prokhorov, who is considered the richest man in Russia.

“It is reasonable to hold the NBA accountable to do what they said they would do — actually investigate Mr. Prokhorov and his business affairs, and determine whether or not he is worthy of owning an American franchise,” Pascrell said in a statement. “The latest news would lead us to conclude he may not. I have a feeling this will play out like so many basketball games - both sides will go back and forth, and it will be the final few plays that determine the outcome.”

The Nets played their final game in the Meadowlands on Monday night, losing for a league-high 69th time in 81 games this season. After a season-ending game on Wednesday, the Nets will move to the Prudential Center in Newark. The franchise then plans to relocate to Brooklyn in 2012, in a new arena called Barclays Center that is scheduled to be the first phase of a $5 billion residential and retail center.

E-mail: [email protected]mikhail_mugabe

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