FBI investigating allegations against Coleman supporter

A lawsuit has alleged that Nasser Kazeminy tried to funnel $75,000 to Sen. Norm Coleman through a Texas company that Kazeminy controls.

The FBI has begun an investigation related to allegations in two lawsuits accusing a friend and political supporter of Sen. Norm Coleman of attempting to funnel $75,000 to him from the coffers of a Texas company that the friend controls.

A source familiar with the probe said FBI agents in Texas have begun contacting people associated with Houston-based Deep Marine Technology Inc., an underwater services company controlled by Nasser Kazeminy, a wealthy businessman whose flagship investment company is based in Bloomington, Minn.

Paul McKim, the founder and former CEO of Deep Marine, has alleged in a lawsuit against Kazeminy that Kazeminy directed $75,000 in payments last year to Hays Companies Inc. of Minneapolis, a large insurance agency that employs Coleman's wife, Laurie Coleman.

McKim's lawsuit alleges that Kazeminy told executives at Deep Marine that Coleman didn't make enough money as a senator and that the payments to Hays were to aid Coleman financially.

Coleman said after the election that he welcomes an immediate investigation. On Wednesday, Luke Friedrich, press secretary for the Coleman Senate campaign, said the senator had not been contacted by any investigators.

McKim said in his lawsuit that Hays did not provide insurance products or services to Deep Marine in exchange for the payments and that he blocked a scheduled fourth payment to Hays that would have been for an additional $25,000.

News of the lawsuit broke five days before the election between Coleman, a Republican, and DFL challenger Al Franken. The election's outcome is the subject of an ongoing recount.

In late October, McKim told the Star Tribune in an interview in Houston that he would welcome an FBI investigation of the payouts made to Hays Companies. He acknowledged that while he might find himself in trouble for initially signing off on the first $25,000 payment sent to Hays, it was paramount that federal authorities understand the context in which the payment was made.

On Wednesday, Casey Wallace, the lawyer for McKim, declined to comment on whether the FBI has contacted or interviewed his client.

McKim's Texas lawsuit is pending along with a second lawsuit, filed in Delaware, by a group of minority shareholders of Deep Marine. Both suits allege additional corporate misappropriations by Kazeminy, who has been a major political donor to Coleman since Coleman switched to the Republican Party in 1998.

Kazeminy has vehemently denied the allegations and Hays said the Texas lawsuit contains allegations directed toward his company that are erroneous. Laurie Coleman has not commented on the lawsuits and Norm Coleman has said all the allegations are false. Neither the Colemans nor Hays are parties to the lawsuit, but are mentioned in it.

Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a liberal political group, wrote letters in November to the Senate Ethics Committee and the FBI asking for investigations of the allegations raised in the two lawsuits. The alliance's petition said the Texas allegations, if true, are potential violations of the Senate ban on gifts worth more than $50 and a requirement to disclose all gifts worth more than $250.

"The citizens of Minnesota deserve to know the truth, and we are grateful that the FBI will be looking into the matter," said Denise Cardinal, executive director of the alliance. "These are serious allegations of fraud that have been made regarding Norm Coleman." The Ethics Committee and the FBI neither confirm nor deny investigations.
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