US charges Israeli-US think tank head with being Chinese agent

Gal Luft, who is a US and Israeli citizen, was arrested in Cyprus in February but fled after he was granted bail pending extradition.

US and Chinese flags on display.
Luft is accused of engaging 'in multiple, serious, criminal schemes' linked to China and Iran [File: Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via AFP]

The United States has charged the head of a US think tank with being an agent of China, as well as seeking to broker the sale of weapons and Iranian oil.

Federal prosecutors in New York charged Gal Luft, a dual citizen of the US and Israel, of engaging “in multiple, serious, criminal schemes”, according to a statement released on Monday by the Department of Justice.

According to prosecutors, Luft “subverted foreign agent registration laws in the United States to seek to promote Chinese policies by acting through a former high-ranking US Government official”.

The official was not named.

In addition, Luft “acted as a broker in deals for dangerous weapons and Iranian oil; and he told multiple lies about his crimes to law enforcement”, the statement said.

The 57-year-old was arrested in February at Cyprus airport, but fled after he was released on bail pending US extradition proceedings, prosecutors said. The Department of Justice said it was asking for information on Luft’s whereabouts.

A Twitter account bearing Luft’s name, with more than 15,000 followers, said in a February 18 tweet that he had been arrested in Cyprus “on a politically motivated extradition request by the US”.

“I’ve never been an arms dealer,” the tweet added.

Luft is co-director and founder of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, which describes itself as a Washington, DC-based think tank focused on energy, security and economic trends.

Prosecutors allege Luft brokered a deal for Chinese companies to sell weapons to countries including Libya, the United Arab Emirates and Kenya, despite lacking the licence needed under US law.

He is also accused of setting up meetings between Iranian officials and a Chinese energy company to discuss oil deals, despite US sanctions on the Middle East country.

Luft has levelled allegations of corruption against the family of US President Joe Biden, and some Republican politicians have claimed the charges against Luft are an attempt to intimidate a key witness.

Source: News Agencies