NRI Sunny Varkey’s business paid Bill Clinton $6 million

Dubai-based GEMS Education, run by Kerala-born Sunny Varkey, paid Bill Clinton more than half a million USD in 2015 according to tax details released by Hillary Clinton’s campaign last week. Rightwing commentators have seized upon the disclosure to make a specious link between the Clintons and promotion of Islam. The Clinton couple earned $10.5 million in 2015, much less than the $28 million the previous year. Most of the money came from speaking fees and consulting. One twentieth of the total earnings of the Clintons in 2015 came from GEMS. Mr. Clinton was appointed honorary chairman of the Varkey GEMS Foundation in 2010, a non-profit run by Mr. Varkey, but the arrangement was discontinued in 2015. Between 2010 and 2014
Between 2010 and 2014, Mr. Varkey’s business paid Mr. Clinton $5.6 million in consultancy fees, according to that analysed tax filings of the couple for previous years. Clinton earned more than $17 million during the same period for consulting with Laureate Education Inc., another education company based in Baltimore.
Though the Clintons’ links with the Varkey group has not been a secret — both have attended events organised by Varkey and the payments have been disclosed in tax filings of previous years —conservative commentators have taken this as a stick
to beat them with during the ongoing election campaign.
Several articles and radio shows have termed GEMS and the Varkey Foundation “Sharia promoting” institutions, an unfounded allegation. GEMS Education is an international company with schools and education services in 14 countries, according to the
company’s website.
Most of the 70 schools that the company runs are in the Gulf but it has presence in India and the US. The company runs two schools in the US. His parents started the school in 1968.
Varkey’s parents started their first school in 1968 in Dubai. Varkey expanded it into a global enterprise and started the Varkey Foundation, with the mission that “every child should have a good teacher.”
The foundation runs teachers training programmes and advocacy campaigns in Uganda and Ghana. It has also partnered with the UNESCO for promoting girls education in Kenya and Lesotho.
GEMS Education also contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. Emails to the Varkey Foundation and GEMS Education seeking comments on their association with the Clintons did not elicit any response when this story was filed.
Clinton’s office told the Associated Press last week that the former President was no longer linked to GEMS Education. Clinton “engaged with GEMS students and faculty around the world and assisted the Varkey GEMS Foundation in its efforts to increase access to education to
underprivileged children,” the statement said. In 2010 Clinton named GEMS Education a strategic partner of the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual conference that brings together global leaders to discuss solutions to development challenges.

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