Report: Saudis, UAE funnelled millions to Trump 2016 campaign

Lebanese-American fugitive CEO claims Saudi Arabia and UAE had deal with Trump to cripple Iranian oil industry.

Crown Prince MBZ
Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan with US President Donald Trump as they meet in the Oval Office at the White House [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

A Lebanese-American businessman accused of campaign finance violations by the United States Justice Department claimed in an interview with the United Kingdom’s Spectator magazine that officials from Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia illegally funnelled millions of dollars into the 2016 campaign of US President Donald Trump.

Ahmad “Andy” Khawaja, the CEO of an online payment processing company, says Emirati officials disguised the money using stolen identities and gift cards as under-$200 campaign contributions that are not required to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Khawaja is currently a fugitive himself wanted for making false statements, obstruction and allegedly making $3.5m in illegal contributions to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. He was indicted along with George Nader, another Lebanese-American businessman and a convicted paedophile currently awaiting sentencing in the US, and six others in December of 2019 by a federal grand jury in Washington, DC.

Nader was a cooperating witness in the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election. According to Mueller’s report, Nader was an influential power broker in the Middle East and an informal adviser to the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates and set up a meeting in the Seychelles in an effort to establish a backchannel between the Trump administration and the Kremlin in Moscow.

In the Spectator interview, with journalist Paul Wood, Khawaja claims Nader approached him in 2016 supposedly on behalf of a member of the UAE’s intelligence services who wanted to buy a payment engine for processing credit card payments over the internet. The engine was to be used to channel donations from sources in Saudi Arabia to the Trump campaign, with officials in the UAE handling the mechanics of the transactions.

Nader told Khawaja that the Emiratis had a deal with Trump campaign officials in which, if elected, the president would withdraw from a nuclear agreement with Iran and impose further sanctions on the country that would cripple its oil industry and benefit those of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Khawaja offered no evidence of his allegations to the magazine and most US officials either denied the assertions or declined to comment. In an email statement to the magazine, the Republican National Committee said it had seen no evidence to support the allegations and that it takes “diligent steps to ensure donations are made in accordance with the law”.

Khawaja further claimed that he and his online payment company, Allied Wallet, are being unfairly persecuted by US officials. Allied Wallet paid a $110m judgement by the Federal Trade Commission in May 2019 after being accused of knowingly processing fraudulent online transactions.

“The law has been manipulated,” Khawaja, who now lives in Beirut, told the Spectator. “I see my case like a judgement time – when they brought Jesus Christ to the Romans. They just threw an accusation at him to crucify him. That’s how I see myself, Jesus Christ standing in a Roman court, being accused of things I never did.”

Source: Al Jazeera