A Chinese Tycoon Sought Power and Influence. Washington Responded.


Ye Jianming’s early efforts to break into the Washington power broker scene didn’t always pan out.

Five years ago, CEFC approached Bobby Ray Inman, a retired admiral and national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, about setting up a joint venture, Mr. Inman said in an interview. The company promised it would pay him $1 million a year, without specifying what business they would go into. He turned down the offer.

Later, Mr. Inman said, CEFC officials called him and said they were considering acquiring oil fields in Syria. Could he help them persuade the American military not to bomb them? Again, he said no.

“They were looking to do business deals in the energy space and they were looking for connections to help them do that,” said Mr. Inman, who said he kept American officials apprised of his communications with CEFC.

Eventually, Mr. Ye met more people. On a 2015 trip to the United States he met with Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, to discuss the economy, according to CEFC.

He also met with Edward W. Scott Jr., a former software tycoon active in Washington political and philanthropic circles, during a dinner at Marcel’s, an upscale Belgian restaurant, ostensibly to talk about CEFC’s interest in buying an ethanol plant in which Mr. Scott had a financial interest. But the conversation instead focused on introductions Mr. Scott might make to other powerful figures he was friendly with, like the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Alexander Pyntikov, a technology entrepreneur who attended the dinner, said several CEFC associates and what appeared to be a dozen bodyguards roamed the restaurant while they talked.

“The whole thing he was into wasn’t very clear,” Mr. Scott said. “It was very murky.”

To build influence, Mr. Ye turned to Vuk Jeremic, a Serbian diplomat and former president of the United Nations General Assembly whom CEFC hired as a consultant, and Mr. Ho, a former Hong Kong official. CEFC also donated at least $350,000 to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a politically connected think tank, according to court testimony. The think tank counts Robert C. McFarlane, the Reagan-era national security adviser, as its president and Mr. Woolsey, a Clinton-era C.I.A. director, as its co-chairman.

Source : Nytimes