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Trump associate pleads not guilty in UAE lobbying case

Billionaire Tom Barrack faces new charges, including allegation that he sought hundreds of millions of dollars in investments from UAE while lobbying for the country
Tom Barrack, chair of former President Trump's inaugural committee, was arrested last year on charges of secretively trying to shape Trump's foreign policy to the benefit of the UAE.
Tom Barrack was arrested last year on charges of secretively trying to shape Trump's foreign policy to the benefit of the UAE (AFP/File photo)

A billionaire fundraiser for former US President Donald Trump's campaign has pleaded not guilty to charges of secretly, and illegally, working for the United Arab Emirates to influence US officials.

Federal prosecutors in the New York City borough of Brooklyn unveiled nine new criminal charges against Tom Barrack last week, including allegations he acted as an unregistered foreign agent and made false statements.

Barrack entered his plea in a virtual hearing before US District Judge Brian Cogan on Tuesday. Jury selection for his trial is scheduled to begin in August.

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Prosecutors say Barrack, who chaired Trump's 2017 inaugural fund and was a frequent White House guest, used his influence to advance the UAE's foreign policy goals in the United States without registering as a lobbyist, in violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

The latest charges claim that Barrack sought investments from UAE sovereign wealth funds at the same time he was lobbying for the country.

Prosecutors said Barrack's investment management company received capital commitments from two UAE sovereign wealth funds totalling $374m in 2017, after it received no new funds from the country between 2009 and 2016.

The new charges allege that Barrack, 75, lied to federal investigators when he denied having facilitated phone calls between Trump, then the president-elect, and two Emirati officials, in 2016.

Providing UAE with sensitive information

Barrack was arrested last year on charges that he and two associates were part of a secretive effort to shape Trump's foreign policy to the benefit of the UAE.

The original seven-count indictment alleges that four UAE officials "tasked" Barrack and his associates with moulding the foreign policy positions of the Trump campaign, and later, his administration, by developing "a back-channel line of communication" with the US government that promoted Emirati interests.

He pleaded not guilty to the original indictment and was released on bail set at $250m.

In court filings, prosecutors accused Barrack of providing UAE government officials "with sensitive non-public information about developments within the Administration, including information about the positions of multiple senior United States government officials with respect to the Qatari blockade conducted by the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries".

In an example cited by prosecutors, the UAE was able to influence the language of a May 2016 speech that then-candidate Trump gave in North Dakota in which he outlined his "America First" energy policy.

According to the indictment, Barrack had informally advised US officials on Middle East policy and had also sought to be appointed to a senior role in the Trump administration, such as a special envoy to the Middle East.

Middle East Eye reached out to the UAE embassy in Washington for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

A media representative for Barrack's lawyer also declined to comment, as did the US Department of Justice.

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