Sanction-busting Investigation Could Threaten Nets Deal, Atlantic Yards
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ) tells the Post that he's requesting a Treasury Department investigation to see if Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian investor who's trying to buy stakes in both the Nets and the planned Nets Arena in Brooklyn, has violated Bush-era sanctions against doing business with associates of Robert Mugabe and his government in Zimbabwe. Prokhorov's Onexim Group, which has offices in the United States, holds a 50 percent stake in Renaissance Capital, which has extensive holdings in Zimbabwe.
This is not good news for Bruce Ratner, who is depending on Prokhorov's investment to get his Atlantic Yards project built.
The NBA made an unexpected announcement on Thursday that a vote scheduled for next week on Prokhorov's ownership bid was going to be delayed indefinitely until the city, which is fighting multiple lawsuits over the Atlantic Yards project, takes possession of the entire parcel of land being seized by eminent domain. At the time, Joel Litvin, the NBA's president of league and basketball operations, said that the background check into Prokhorov was complete, and Stern told 60 Minutes that "nobody has come up with any reason why he shouldn't be an NBA owner." A spokesman from Renaissance Capital, however, told the Post that the NBA never asked about Zimbabwe.
This is not Pascrell's first attempt to block the Nets deal. He wrote to NBA Commissioner David Stern in August of last year requesting an investigation into Prokhorov's business practices, which appears to have been roundly ignored by all concerned. Stern was an early supporter of the deal when it was announced (ironically, so was Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, whose next-door neighbor George Bush put the sanctions in place to begin with).