Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyah and other top Emirati officials met with Donald Trump's billionaire ally Tom Barrack just weeks after the former US president's election, a new report says.
According to Bloomberg, Barrack received a royal welcome in the UAE in December 2016 from bin Zayed, his brother - UAE national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and director of the Emirati intelligence service Ali Mohammed Hammad al-Shamsi.
The meeting was part of a secret back-channel effort to influence the foreign policy positions of the Trump campaign and the incoming administration, and to increase the Persian Gulf Arab state’s political clout, it cited US prosecutors as saying.
Barrack was arrested in July on charges that he and two associates were secretly lobbying the Trump administration for the UAE between 2016 and 2018. He has since been released on bail set at $250 million and pleaded not guilty.
His indictment identifies his hosts at the reception only as Emirati officials 1, 2 and 3.
Prosecutors say those three officials, and a fourth UAE official, “tasked” Barrack and two co-defendants in 2016 with pushing Abu Dhabi’s interests with Washington.
Emirati official 4 is Abdullah Khalifa al-Ghafli, who has overseen the UAE’s humanitarian efforts in Pakistan, and Emirati official 5 is Yousef al-Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador to the US, Bloomberg reported.
The indictment against Barrack says he helped the Emiratis on several fronts, including helping to arrange a White House meeting with Trump and pushing the Middle Eastern country's preferred candidates for positions in the new US administration.
It also accused Barrack of having provided inside information on how Trump administration officials regarded the blockade of Qatar by its Arab neighbors.
Prosecutors allege that the Trump ally lied to the FBI in June 2019 about his work on behalf of the UAE.
Ben Freeman, director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, said the naming of the Emirati officials shows that Abu Dhabi is not the US ally it appears to be.
"The UAE officials being named means this was a conspiracy to interfere in US politics coordinated by the very top of the UAE government. After this revelation, anyone that thinks the UAE is a 'friend' of the US should think twice. Friends don't illegally interfere in each other's democracies," he told the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal.
"Even prior to this, the context clues in the indictment led many to assume these were the officials involved."