Categories: Business and Politics

Testimony Resumes in Ex-Ald. Edward Burke’s Corruption Trial: Son of Fast-Food Tycoon Details Alleged Extortion

In the ongoing corruption trial of former Alderman Edward Burke, Zohaib Dhanani, son of a Texas-based fast-food restaurant owner, will continue his testimony on Tuesday. Dhanani’s statements relate to Burke’s alleged attempts to coerce the hiring of his private law firm, Klafter & Burke, for property-tax appeal work.

Dhanani began his testimony on Monday, discussing his responsibility for the renovation of nearly two dozen Burger Kings in Chicago, starting in March 2017. He recounted receiving an email from colleague Jeff MacDonald, expressing concern about Burke’s influence in Chicago politics. MacDonald warned that without Burke’s approval, obtaining permits for their projects would be challenging.

The focus of Tuesday’s testimony is expected to be on the meetings Dhanani and his father had with Burke in 2017. Prosecutors allege that Burke, then chairman of the Finance Committee, pressured them to hire his firm for legal work. According to the charges, when the Dhananis hesitated, Burke purportedly used his ward aide, Peter Andrews Jr., to halt the Burger King project by citing permit issues.

This testimony is part of the larger racketeering indictment against Burke, detailing four main episodes of alleged extortion. Burke’s defense has countered these accusations, portraying him as a diligent ward representative. They argue that the Dhananis’ failure to update necessary permits was the actual issue, and they never engaged Klafter & Burke’s services.

The trial, now in its 11th day, is nearing the end of the prosecution’s primary case. A notable part of Monday’s proceedings included a wiretapped phone conversation between Dhanani and Burke, planning a meeting to discuss the Burger King project. During the call, Dhanani expressed his eagerness to meet and discuss the project, while Burke proposed a dinner meeting.

Burke, 79, served as an alderman for 54 years before leaving the City Council in May. He faces 14 counts, including racketeering, federal program bribery, attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, and using interstate commerce for unlawful activities.

Co-defendant Andrews, 73, is charged with attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, using interstate commerce for unlawful activities, and making a false statement to the FBI.

Charles Cui, a Lake Forest developer and the third defendant in the case, faces charges of federal program bribery, using interstate commerce for unlawful activities, and making a false statement to the FBI. The trial continues to reveal intricate details of the alleged corrupt practices within Chicago’s political landscape.

Author: CrimeDoor


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