Former Trump fundraiser charged with illicit 1MDB, China lobbying

Elliot Broidy was allegedly hired by Malaysian fugitive financier Jho Low to try and get 1MDB probe dropped.

Jho Low
The 1MDB scandal triggered mass protests in Malaysia and led to the fall of Najib's government in May 2018 [File: Sadiq Asyraf/AP Photo]

A former top fundraiser for President Donald Trump has been indicted on a charge that he illegally lobbied the United States government to drop its investigation into the Malaysia 1MDB corruption scandal and deport an exiled Chinese billionaire.

Elliott Broidy was charged in a Washington federal court with one count of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent after allegedly agreeing to take millions of dollars to lobby the Trump administration.

The indictment, which was made public on Thursday, said Broidy was recruited in 2017 by an unnamed foreign national, understood to be Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho to pressure US officials to end their investigation of the multibillion-dollar scandal at Malaysian state fund 1MDB, which was engulfing then-Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.

The scandal involved the theft of more than $4.5bn from the state fund 1MDB, which was used to buy luxury properties, art, designer goods and to fund the Hollywood movie Wolf of Wall Street, which was produced by Najib’s stepson. Low, who is now a fugitive, was allegedly central to the fraud.

At the time Broidy was national deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after having been a key fundraiser for Trump’s successful 2016 presidential campaign.

Golf with Najib

After being recruited by Low, Broidy personally asked Trump to invite Najib to play golf during the Malaysian leader’s September 2017 visit to the United States, the indictment said.

The goal was to give Najib, who was convicted in July in the first of a series of trials related to 1MDB, a chance “to attempt to resolve the 1MDB matter” with the US leader, the document said.

The golf game never happened and Low was indicted in 2018 for his role in siphoning off billions from 1MDB.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, wearing a face mask prays with his supporters upon arrival at court house in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday, July 28, 2020. Malaysian High Court t
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (centre) was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 12 years in prison in July in the first of a series of cases related to the 1MDB scandal. He is appealing the ruling [Vincent Thian/AP Photo]

Low, who has also been charged in Malaysia over the scandal, has consistently denied any wrongdoing. He is thought to be in China and Malaysian police said in July he had been hiding in the semi-autonomous territory of Macau.

In addition, in May 2017 Low introduced Broidy to a Chinese state minister and they discussed Beijing’s desire that Washington deport an exiled Chinese tycoon, the indictment said.

It did not name either person, but the tycoon is known to be Guo Wengui, a prominent dissident businessman.

According to the Wall Street Journal newspaper, the Chinese official was Sun Lijun, at the time Beijing’s powerful vice minister of public security.

China lobbying

The indictment describes Broidy’s intense lobbying of the White House, the Justice Department and law enforcement on behalf of the Chinese, including contacts with but not direct discussions with Trump.

The object of the lobbying conspiracy, the indictment said, was “to make millions of dollars by leveraging Broidy’s access to and perceived influence with the president and his administration”.

The indictment came just weeks after a key partner of Low and Broidy, Hawaii businesswoman Nickie Mali Lum Davis, pleaded guilty to a charge of illegal lobbying on the 1MDB case and the Guo case.

Guo remains in the US, where he has continued to campaign against Beijing authorities, working closely with another longtime Trump associate, Steve Bannon.

Bannon was arrested in August while onboard Guo’s yacht off the coast of Connecticut and charged with defrauding donors to a Mexican border wall project.

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera