Blagojevich corruption trial: Indian-American emerges as a key figure

Raghuveer Nayak, an Indian-American Chicago businessman has emerged as a key figure in the corruption trial of former governor Rod Blagojevich at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse here on Wednesday.

Updated: Jul 21, 2010, 18:12 PM IST

Chicago: Raghuveer Nayak, an
Indian-American Chicago businessman has emerged as a key
figure in the corruption trial of former governor Rod
Blagojevich at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse here on Wednesday.

Rod`s brother, Robert, testified as a co-defendant in the
trial that he didn`t take a USD 6 million offer from Nayak
seriously, saying that he and others in a group of Indian
fund-raisers advocating for Jesse Jackson Jr for the Senate
were "awkward and clumsy and naive", according to the Chicago
Sun-Times.
Prosecutor Chris Niewoehner reminded Robert that he had
at first called Nayak an "amusing gentleman" and a "likable
exaggerator".

A December 4 phone call between the brothers shed more
light.

Rod said he was "elevating" Jackson in his estimation and
that he was looking for something "tangible upfront" from
Nayak since the Washington lobby members was "freaking out".

Robert said that Nayak and Rajinder Bedi, a prominent
businessman in Chicago`s Indian community and an international
trade director in the former Blagojevich government, met him
at a restaurant in October 2008 and offered to raise USD 6
million in exchange for appointing Jesse Jackson Jr in the
vacant senate seat of then president-elect Barack Obama.

Robert Blagojevich went on to arrange a meeting with
Nayak the following day, but hastily called it off following
news reports that revealed the Blagojeviches were being taped
by federal investigators.

Blagojevich`s phones and those of his closest confidants
were also tapped.

Robert further testified that on December 8, 2008,
someone from the governor`s team had the Illinois State Police
sweep the Friends of Blagojevich office for bugs but Robert
said that he wasn`t concerned.
Although Nayak and Bedi have not been charged, their
taped phone conversations have been played in the court before
Judge James Zagel.

"Having grown up in an ethnic family" -- the
Blagojeviches` father was a Serbian immigrant -- "I can see
how they`re very clumsy," the Chicago Sun-Times quoted Robert
as saying.

"That`s just how I viewed the Indians -- very awkward and
clumsy and naive in our political system. And I put Nayak at
the top of the chart.

Niewoehner asked if Nayak was "naive" to believe that USD
6 million could sway the governor.

"He was naive to think he could approach a guy like me
and get it done," Robert answered.

Meanwhile, Judge Zagel ordered the court adjourned for
the day after Rod`s lawyers -- the father-and-son team of Sam
Adam Sr and Sam Adam Jr said they planned to rest the case
without having Rod to testify, something Blagojevich had
vehemently promised to do.

Blagojevich`s lawyers disagree whether he should testify
in his own defense.

While Sam Adams Sr thinks that the ex-governor doesn`t
need to because he does not think that the prosecutors proved
their case, Sam Adams Jr said he promised jurors that
Blagojevich will testify and thus he should, but the decision
is eventually Blagojevich?s.

Rod Blagojevich has repeatedly defended his innocence in
improvised news conferences, on Twitter, Larry King Live and
even on Donald Trump`s Show `Celebrity Apprentice`, it still
remains unclear whether he will testify.

The trial is set to begin tomorrow morning and only if
Blagojevich testifies will the witnesses be called.

PTI