Lawsuit over old Jeb Bush business venture resurfaces
Just as Jeb Bush increasingly generates speculation about running for president, a controversial business venture that has dogged him for years is popping back up in federal court.
United States of America vs. MWI Corp. is scheduled for trial in Washington in October, more than 15 years after the start of a legal fight that has produced allegations of fraud against the U.S. government, bribery of Nigerian officials and plenty of fodder for the former governor's rivals.
Bush was the 35-year-old son of a sitting U.S. president when in 1988 he started working with the Deerfield Beach-based MWI Corp. selling water pumps across the globe. Over the next five years until shortly before running for governor in 1994, he earned about $650,000 in a venture that would eventually cause him "unmitigated grief," as he put it years later..
When the federal trial starts Oct. 21, however, the allegations of bribery, corruption in Nigeria, and even Bush's role in the business won't be part of the trial.
Bush had been listed as a potential witness, but MWI objected and a federal judge recently agreed his testimony was largely irrelevant and likely would produce a "distracting mini-trial." Likewise, the judge is barring testimony about alleged bribery and accusations that MWI officials tried to hide assets from creditors as not relevant to the "narrow factual issues" to be examined by the jury.
The case centers on a 1992 deal to sell water pumps to Nigeria, financed with $74.3 million from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, or Ex-Im. It was a huge coup for MWI, more than four times the annual sales of the company run by David Eller, a top Republican fundraiser who formed a company with Bush, Bush-El Corp. to market MWI's pumps.