Probe finds evidence of bank boss’s romance with senior aide

By JOSHUA GOODMAN, Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — Investigators say they have found evidence that a former Trump official who heads Latin America’s largest development bank was romantically involved with his chief of staff — a connection they would have forged in a pact scribbled on the back of a restaurant placemat: “We deserve absolute happiness.”

The Associated Press has obtained a copy of a confidential report from a law firm appointed by the board of directors of the Inter-American Development Bank to investigate an anonymous complaint of misconduct against its president, Mauricio Claver-Carone .

In it, investigators said it was reasonable to conclude that the relationship between the two had existed since at least 2019, when both held senior positions on the National Security Council. They said the alleged relationship prompted a US official at the time to warn that she posed a counterintelligence risk.

Exhibit A of the 21-page report is a “contract” the two men allegedly wrote on the back of a placemat in the summer of 2019 while dining at a steakhouse in Medellin, Colombia. Both were attending the annual meeting of the Organization of American States.

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In it, they reportedly outlined a timeline for divorcing their spouses and getting married. There is also a ‘break clause’ stating that failure to comply with the terms will result in ‘sadness and grief’ which could only be alleviated by ‘candle wax and a naughty box’ from a hotel on the edge. of sea in Miami, the birthplace of Claver-Carone.

“We deserve absolute happiness. May only God part with this covenant,” according to the contract, a photo of which was provided to investigators by the woman’s ex-husband, who told investigators he found the placemat in her purse when she returned from the trip. .

The alleged contract is one of many details in the report that has Claver-Carone fighting to save his job. They include allegations that he had a meeting in a hotel room at 1 a.m. with his chief of staff, sent him a poem one Sunday morning titled “My soul is in a hurry” and – possibly most troubling – allegedly giving him 40% pay raises in violation of the bank’s conflict of interest policies.

Claver-Carone disputed the accuracy of the report, strongly denouncing the way the review was conducted and offering no indication that he was considering resigning.

According to investigators, he has denied ever – now or before – having a romantic relationship with his longtime right hand.

Her chief of staff denied the allegations in the anonymous complaint and told investigators she had never violated the IDB’s code of ethics, according to the report. In a written communication to investigators, she also complained that she had been deprived of due process.

The AP is not naming Claver-Carone’s aide because the report, which is labeled “confidential,” has not been made public.

“Neither I nor any other IDB staff member has had the opportunity to review the final investigation report, respond to its findings or correct any inaccuracies,” Claver-Carone said in a statement Tuesday. .

The results recall accusations of ethical lapses against another Republican at the top of a multilateral institution, former Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who resigned as head of the World Bank in 2007 for arranging a generous pay rise for his girlfriend.

The Inter-American Development Bank is the largest multilateral lender in Latin America, disbursing up to $23 billion each year to fight poverty in the region.

Representatives of the bank’s 48 members met on Wednesday to discuss the report, but it was unclear what action, if any, they might take.

The United States is the largest shareholder in the Washington-based bank and some inside the White House have made no secret of their dislike of Claver-Carone, whose election as IDB leader in recent months of the Trump presidency broke with the tradition of a Latin American company running the bank.

Some of the more salacious claims referenced in the report could not be substantiated by New York-based Davis Polk. The law firm also found no evidence that Claver-Carone knowingly violated the bank’s travel policies to conceal a romantic relationship, or retaliated against bank employees, as alleged in an anonymous complaint sent in March to the bank’s board of directors.

Still, Davis Polk harshly criticized Claver-Carone and his chief of staff for not fully cooperating with their investigation, calling it a violation of bank policies and principles.

For example, the report says Claver-Carone did not turn over his bank-issued cell phone for analysis, despite providing a forensic report by a consultant. Claver-Carone also did not share messages from his personal phone or Gmail account with his chief of staff, according to the report.

“Particularly in light of their refusal to cooperate, it would be reasonable to conclude that evidence of a prior relationship and additional circumstantial evidence of a current relationship while both were at the Bank constitute a violation of the applicable Bank policies,” the report states.

The Davis Polk report says Claver-Carone increased his assistant’s salary by 40% in one year. He said one of the raises and a title change were ordered by Claver-Carone a day after an email exchange in which she complained that she was not getting enough respect from her colleagues.

” You understand. It’s your bank,” she wrote, according to the report.

Davis Polk, who also led the investigation that led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation as governor of New York, blamed Claver-Carone for making employment decisions about someone he was with. he thinks he had a romantic relationship. However, he said other executives have received similarly sized raises, and his chief of staff’s current salary of $420,000 matches his predecessor’s pay.

Claver-Carone, when confronted with photographs of the so-called doily ‘contract’ in an interview this month, told investigators he had never seen the document and denied that it was his handwriting or his signature. He said the document was fraudulent and part of a scheme by his aide’s ex-husband to harm him.

In a letter to the bank’s general counsel, seen by AP, the chief of staff’s divorce attorneys said her former husband had a history of cruelty and revenge that came to light in court proceedings. divorce. They said any evidence he provided to investigators should not be considered credible.

However, two independent handwriting experts, including one who previously worked for the FBI, have concluded that there is a strong likelihood that the handwriting on the placemat – excerpts of which are displayed in the report – matches Claver’s calligraphy. -Carone in the bank documents. Claver-Carone declined to submit a writing sample as part of the investigation, according to the report.

Joshua Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

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