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Bill Clinton praises controversial CEO

Dec. 6, 2008 at 7:04 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, in Malaysia, praised an industrialist whose business practices have been questioned by investors, observers say.

Clinton, delivering his first overseas speech since his wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., was tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to be secretary of state, spoke glowingly in Kuala Lumpur Friday of the Petra Group and its CEO Vinod Sekhar, The New York Times reported.

Pointing at Sekhar, Clinton told the audience, "You should be proud of this man," the newspaper said.

Sekhar's recycled rubber products were singled out for praise by Clinton, who was paid an estimated $200,000 appearance fee, the newspaper said. But Petra Group has been the target of several high-profile arguments with investors who say they're owed money, including U.S. actor Bruce Willis, who recently settled a lawsuit with Petra over the return of $900,000.

A member of the Malaysian royal family quit this week as the company's chairman, saying, "I have received many surprises during my tenure with the group," including the Willis lawsuit.

As part of his agreement with Obama's transition team, Bill Clinton has agreed to let the incoming administration review his paid speeches.

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