10 Dec 2008

US governor arrested on corruption charges

3:32 pm on 10 December 2008

The governor of the US state of Illinois has been arrested, accused of conspiring to sell an appointment to a senate seat left vacant by president-elect Barack Obama.

Rod Blagojevich, as governor, has sole authority to select a successor to Mr Obama as junior Illinois senator.

US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement that the charges allege that Mr Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States Senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism.

Mr Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were also accused to trying to "induce purge of newspaper editorial writers," critical of him at the Tribune Company.

They have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.

The FBI said telephone taps recorded Mr Blagojevich discussing how he could profit from the fact that it is the governor's role to appoint a US senator when a seat becomes vacant.

He allegedly discussed getting paid a substantial salary working for a non-profit foundation or labour union, placing his wife on corporate boards where he speculated she might get paid as much as $US150,000 a year, promises of campaign funds, and a cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.