Republican US Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska has resigned from office after a California jury convicted him of lying to federal authorities about an illegal campaign donation from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent.
It is illegal in the US for foreign nationals to make contributions to campaigns.
But Chagoury, 75, has made several. In 2019, he was fined $1.8m (£1.4m) by the US government, and some recipients of his donations were investigated.
In 2016, he illegally donated $30,000 (£22,736) to Fortenberry, funnelling the funds to the congressman through donors at a Los Angeles event.
A Paris-based industrialist, Chagoury had a high profile. His name adorns a wing of the Louvre Museum, and he was once denied a US visa for alleged ties to Hezbollah militants.
He was once a top advisor to Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacha, who was later found to have stolen billions from the country as its head of state in the 1990s.
In a letter on Saturday, Fortenberry said he was resigning from Congress effective March 31.
“It has been my honour to serve with you in the United States House of Representatives,” he wrote.
“Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer effectively serve.”
Fortenberry’s announcement followed pressure from political leaders in Nebraska and Washington for him to resign.
He is set to be sentenced on June 28 with each count carrying up to five years of federal prison time. The rep has, however, said he would appeal against the conviction.
The lawmaker was indicted in October after authorities said he lied to FBI agents in two separate interviews about his knowledge of an illegal $30,000 contribution from his campaign from a foreign billionaire.
Fortenberry was interviewed at his home in Lincoln, and then again with his lawyers present in Washington, D.C.
At trial, prosecutors presented recorded phone conversations in which he was repeatedly warned that the contributions came from Chagoury.
House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy on Friday urged Fortenberry to resign.
SaharaReporters, New York