Money launderer Nathan Jacobson faces sentencing in U.S.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey explains the who, what, where and what next


(Left to right) Bernie Farber, Nathan Jacobson and then-Transport Minister John Baird attend the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee's annual ACTION party in Toronto March 11, 2010.

The convicted money launderer who once had powerful friends in Conservative political circles found himself on a plane to California earlier today. Nathan Jacobson, a wealthy businessman who claimed to introduce senior cabinet minister Jason Kenney to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, faces sentencing for a $46-million laundering scheme dating back several years. CTV News reported that Jacobson, walking through Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in handcuffs, was bound for San Diego—where he’ll learn the fate he’s tried to elude since pleading guilty to laundering charges in 2008.

Who is Jacobson?

Nathan Jacobson was born in Winnipeg. He earned his fortune as a globetrotting businessman over a couple of decades. The Toronto Star‘s Josh Tapper reported in October 2012 that Jacobson was active in steel exporting, online pharmacies and payment processing. Tapper described Jacobson’s larger-than-life time in Russia.

In the early years of the free-market free-for-all that exploded after the Soviet Union’s collapse, Nathan Jacobson was General Motors’ man in Moscow. It was a harried yet lucrative life, flying a private jet to remote business deals in Siberia, closing transactions over vodka and a shvitz and dodging Russian mobsters in the Wild West world of post-Soviet capitalism.

What were the charges?

Eventually, Jacobson’s pharmacy business landed him in hot water. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to money-laundering charges in connection with his internet pharmacy, Affpower, which distributed drugs to customers without prescriptions. He agreed to co-operate with investigators, and was released until sentencing.

What’s happened since Jacobson’s guilty plea?

Jacobson spent much of the past five years in Canada, where he gained a reputation as a big player in Conservative circles. He was photographed between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Netanyahu, was involved with a number of Jewish organizations in Toronto, and was a regular on the cocktail circuit. In July 2012, Jacobson skipped a pre-sentence hearing. He basically disappeared. Eventually, in October, American authorities requested a Canadian warrant for Jacobson’s arrest. On Oct. 25, he was apprehended by police in Toronto—at his condo. After he spent a week in custody, Jacobson was granted bail. Last month, he agreed to return to the U.S. to face sentencing. That’s why he was in handcuffs today.

What about his high-powered Conservative friends?

Jacobson was notably photographed with Kenney and Harper, two obvious heavyweights in federal circles. He hosted receptions in Toronto and Ottawa. But when his legal troubles caught up with him and his reputation took a hit, Jacobson receded from the party scene. Why? He explained his rationale to CBC’s Power and Politics.

“I myself made the decision that it’s best to keep a distance, in order to protect my friends. I would for the most part consider them still my friends. But while I’m—for the lack of a better term—radioactive, better let them to continue to run government.”

Who is his least favourite Conservative politician?

While he fought his own legal battles, Jacobson was busy suing a fellow Conservative. He accused Mark Adler, now the MP for Toronto’s York Centre riding and at the time the head of the Economic Club of Canada, of taking a $140,000 loan to the organization and not paying it back. Adler claimed it was a gift. In an interview with CBC News, Jacobson disagreed.

“It’s nice that [Adler] considers it a gift,” Jacobson responded. “I’d like him to show me other people that give him gifts like that. And I’d like other people to come forward and state that I gave them gifts of $140,000. Go ask my sister. I love my sister.… I don’t give gifts like that. I’m a generous person, but nobody gives gifts like that. So it’s unfathomable that he could. I was so insulted when he came out with that response. I went to him: Mark, I loaned you the money. When are you going to start repaying it?”

No word on the status of that legal wrangling, but Jacobson will soon have clarity on exactly how long he’ll stay in prison.


Money launderer Nathan Jacobson faces sentencing in U.S.

  1. He better not get back in our country, like Conrad Black.

    Harper’s Cons sure do know a lot of crooks.

    • Unlike Cretien and Mulroney and other corrupt politicians – Where is the proof he stole from the Canadian people?

    • @Justin. Stop leaping to assumptions. Jacobson is not a crook and has stolen nothing. What he was doing was running an internet pharmacy business that allowed American consumers to get prescription drugs from Israel at a cheaper rate than American drug companies offered. Obviously a dangerous thief…

      • He’s already been tried and convicted. He skipped out on his sentencing. You Cons will support anyone, even international drug dealers, as long as they’re pals with Harper.

        • What trial? You got some prosecutor in California piling charges on somebody to advance his own career (and presumably get an in with the pharmaceutical companies), and a man who thought a plea bargain would let him off the hook. The US is plagued by a rogue ‘prosecutocracy’ and justice is very far from its courts. But then, what can you expect from a country that has pretty much the same prison population as Stalin’s Russia?
          I am not Anti-American, but the conduct of the US in the last 20 years is really starting to worry me.

          • If you’re going to lie, at least make it a good one. Anyone can Google Nathan Jacobson and read up on all the details.

          • The story above is bullshit. Nathan Jacobson was living at home in Toronto the whole time he was “in hiding” and had “disappeared”, and Canadian police long refused to serve the extradition — in fact, he was regularly involved with our INSET teams and used to loan them his own vehicles for stake-outs. The reason why he got arrested last autumn was that an unknown informant raised a bogus concern about an attempted flight. The whole point about his being in handcuffs when he finally went to the US was more American bullshit in the fine tradition of a grandstanding perp walk.

  2. Its good to see that there is justice in this world. Thank you Jesus. My prayers for 45 years have finally been answered.

    • What the Hell are you talking about?

  3. Nigel Wright would disagree with Jacobson’s sentiment. He lavishes $90,000 gifts all the time, no big whoop.

  4. That’s accused “Money launderer” and it’s as much of a bullshit charge as the one against Conrad Black.

    • ‘”He pleaded guilty in 2008 to money-laundering charges”

      Missed that part, did you?

      • Nope, did you miss the part about changing his plea and his attorney?
        Or the usual American ‘trial’ these days where they throw a hundred charges at you until you cry ‘uncle’ to one?

        • Hi John, you are correct 100%, he (the uncle) just wants to get something rather then nothing. Cheers for Nathan! Hold on! The truth will arise! He is a good man!

  5. Jacobson a generous person? What tripe. There are individuals and firms in Israel and elsewhere owed many, many tens of thousands of dollars by his companies because he was able to continue to do business while his verdict was sealed. I should like to know why the US Department of Justice allowed a convicted money launderer to continue in business enabling his businesses (owned wholly by Jacobson)to cheat his business partners.

    • And who are you, really? Other people on this post are using real names.

  6. Oy Adler & the big money–Adler is such a self-promoting sleaze–“my parents survived…” Ys Mark, we know, we all did–and his comments in Ottawa about the trains committee & the Oppposition party? Mark is SUCH an embarrassment–to the Conservatives too.

  7. As someone living in Adler’s riding this has raised an eyebrow he also had a “fund raiser” not too long ago, some article I read speculated that it was to cover his costs if you know what I mean

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