A businessman from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was paid by his country’s intelligence agency to spy on the US government for information on its policies in the Middle East, a news report said.
Rashid al-Malik received tens of thousands of dollars a month for acquiring intelligence on Trump administration policy towards the region in 2017, The Intercept reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources and official documents.
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Malik reported back to the UAE’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) on topics of interest to the oil-producing Gulf state – including US efforts to mediate a Gulf crisis involving Qatar – as well as meetings between US officials and Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the report detailed.
“Malik was tasked to report to his Emirati intelligence handlers on topics of consequence to the UAE, such as attitudes within the Trump administration toward the Muslim Brotherhood,” the report said.
Among the Emirati government officials overseeing Malik was Ali al-Shamsi, the NIS director, according to sources cited.
Al-Shamsi is “more than just a spy, he’s also a discreet messenger” for Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) and his brother Tahnoun bin Zayed, the UAE’s national security adviser, one source was quoted as saying.
“Shamsi and the Emirati government clearly think they can influence Trump by doing business with him,” said one person with knowledge of the UAE’s spy operations.
The news report was denied by Malik’s lawyer who told The Intercept his client was “not an intelligence operative”.
“He has never been ‘tasked’ to deliver information about the inner workings of the Trump administration,” lawyer Bill Coffield said.
It is against the law for anyone other than a diplomatic or consular official to operate inside the US on behalf of a foreign government without first notifying the US Justice Department.
The White House, CIA, and the Justice Department all declined to comment for the story. The UAE’s embassy did not respond to requests for a response.
The Intercept report came after the Justice Department last week said George Nader, a well-connected Middle East fixer for the Trump campaign, was arrested for possessing child pornography.
Nader – also an adviser to MBZ – was a witness in US special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the Trump campaign and alleged Russian election meddling.