Clinton run for presidency swept up in Haitian gold permit affair

The presidential ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton have become ensnared in an obscure gold-mining project in Haiti, as the Democratic favorite for the presidency begins her second run for the White House.

In a story that suggests cronyism, questionable ethics and a blurring of the lines between charity and profiteering, The Daily Mail reported on Sunday that Clinton's brother, Tony Rodham, sat on the board of VCS Mining when the unlisted, Delaware-based junior was granted a permit to mine gold in Haiti following a massive earthquake on the impoverished island nation in 2010. The permit was the first to be granted in over 50 years, VCS Mining wrote in the press release announcing the awarding of the 5-year exploitation permit.

While Rodham's involvement in the gold project, called Morne Bossa, would normally be of little cause for concern, what has raised eyebrows is the timing of the permit, granted two years after the earthquake that killed over 100,000 people, and the fact that Rodham "was a board member of a North Carolina mining company that enjoyed prime access to Haitian gold deposits in the wake of post-earthquake relief work organized in part by former president Bill Clinton through the Clinton Foundation," according to the Daily Mail. Another VCS board member was Jean-Max Bellerive, noted the Mail, who co-chaired the charitable Interim Haiti Recovery Commission with former US president Bill Clinton.

However the company vigorously defends against the allegation, saying in a press release that Rodham and Bellerive did not become become members of the board of directors until Oct. 27, 2013, almost a year after the final development permit for Morne Bossa was issued.

"We never expected or asked Mr. Rodham for any special treatment and did not receive any. There was no quid pro quo concerning the Clinton Foundation suggested or offered and VCS has not received any financial assistance from any Clinton entity nor has the Company solicited any Clinton entity," the company states.

Still the allegations concerning her brother come at a bad time for Hillary Clinton, who is increasingly in the media spotlight as the frontrunner to become the Democratic presidential nominee. The former secretary of state and first lady came under fire this week when it was discovered she used a private email address, rather than a public, traceable one, while at the State Department. Further questions were raised upon revelations that Scott Gration, the US ambassador to Kenya while Clinton was Secretary of State, was kicked from his post for a similar move to keep emails from public view. The Clinton Foundation has also been criticized recently for accepting donations from countries that Clinton dealt with while Secretary, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which could create conflicts of interest with such countries should Clinton become president.

After the earthquake in Haiti, the Clinton Foundation raised around $36 million for disaster relief, while the Obama Administration kicked in $3.6 billion.