May 11, 2010
Mr. David J. Stern
National Basketball Association
645 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10022
Dear Mr. Stern:
This letter is being sent to express concerns about the National Basketball Association's pending agreement with Mikhail Prokhorov, who seeks to buy the New Jersey Nets basketball team. In a recent interview, you anticipated that Mr. Prokhorov could be sitting among the NBA's team owners during the draft lottery on May 18, despite the possibility that he may have violated United States sanctions against Zimbabwe that have been in place since 2003.
Brooklyn elected officials are disappointed that you are so eager to close the deal with Mr. Prokhorov, as your statement implies, rather than vet the details of a prospective team owner's dealings in a nation run by Robert Mugabe's oppressive dictatorship.
The Nets basketball team is an integral part of the Atlantic Yards redevelopment project - a project that was sold to the public as one that would provide many benefits to New Yorkers, including the creation of thousands of affordable housing units. As elected representatives of the community, we have a significant responsibility to ensure that the public is served through the most honorable means possible.
Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey has asked you to keep your stated commitment to perform due diligence of Mr. Prokhorov and he has called upon the Treasury Department to investigate whether sanctions have been violated. The signers of this letter share Congressman Pascrell's belief that the NBA should hold a higher standard for its business partners than simply avoiding doing business with convicts.
Rep. Pascrell wrote to you explaining that as a 50 percent owner of Renaissance Capital, Mr. Prokhorov is directly connected to the firm's reported sponsorship in June 2009 of an economic forum in Harare, Zimbabwe. Renaissance Capital offered foreign investors special access to government officials, including those on the United States' sanctions list, and is also reportedly a shareholder in CBZ Holdings, one of the largest banks in Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe is the bank's largest shareholder.
The congressman also made you aware of his findings that Renaissance may have long-standing working relationships with major Russian fraud scheme, based on documents filed last year in the Southern District of New York. The court filings detail Renaissance's connection to a complex tax rebate fraud in Russia through which it is believed at least $106.9 million in taxes paid from a Renaissance-managed investment fund was later embezzled from the Russian treasury through the payment of fraudulent tax refunds.
The public benefits of Atlantic Yards will be hollow if they are achieved with the help of profits gained through fraudulent schemes or a regime that holds no regard for human rights.
We ask that you postpone the NBA owners' vote to ratify Mikhail Prokhorov as owner of the New Jersey Nets until his business background is thoroughly understood.
Member of City Council, 35th CD
Member of City Council, 34th CD
Joan L. Millman
Member of State Assembly, 52nd AD
James F. Brennan
Member of State Assembly, 44th AD
Member of State Senate, 18th SD