The head of a US think tank has been charged with acting as a Chinese agent and attempting to broker the sale of weapons and Iranian oil.
Gal Luft “agreed to covertly recruit and pay” an unnamed ex-US official to publicly support certain Chinese policies, federal prosecutors say.
The 57-year-old allegedly attempted to broker arms sales involving customers in China, Libya, the UAE and Kenya.
A Twitter account associated with him has denied he is an arms dealer.
Mr Luft, a joint US and Israeli citizen, is considered a fugitive, federal prosecutors in Manhattan said on Monday.
In 2016, officials say he failed to register as a foreign agent while acting to advance Chinese interests in the US.
He is alleged to have lobbied an ex-US official who was an adviser to then President-elect Donald Trump to convince him to “publicly support certain policies with respect to China”.
Mr Luft is said to have written draft comments on behalf of the same unnamed US official, which were later published in Chinese media and sent to American universities.
Mr Luft is the co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, which is based outside Washington DC and describes itself as focused on energy and US security. It was co-founded by Mr Luft and lists former CIA Director James Woolsey as an adviser, according to its website.
Prosecutors also accuse him of attempting to broker arms sales without a US permit. He allegedly worked to help Chinese companies sell anti-tank launchers, grenade launchers and mortar rounds to Libya.
He also allegedly attempted to sell “aerial bombs and rockets” to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and “strike” drones to Kenya.
Federal officials say he attempted to bypass US sanctions on Iranian oil by directing an associate to say that the oil was Brazilian.
According to prosecutors, Mr Luft was arrested in Cyprus on US charges on 17 February this year and fled after being released on bail pending extradition.
A day later, a Twitter account in his name with 15,000 followers said he had been arrested in Cyprus “on a politically motivated extradition request by the US”.
He is charged with eight counts, including failing to register as a foreign agent, evading oil sanctions, two counts of making false statements to investigators and three counts of illicit arms trafficking.
He faces decades in prison if found guilty.
Source : BBC