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.