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US Charges Research Group Leader With China Lobbying

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FILE - Signage marks an exterior wall of the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington, Jan. 23, 2023.

A U.S.-Israeli dual citizen who has accused President Joe Biden's family of receiving millions of dollars from a Chinese energy conglomerate in exchange for access and promoting its interests, has been charged with serving as an illegal agent of that same company.

Gal Luft ran the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a Maryland-based energy security research group. He was indicted on Monday for acting as an unregistered foreign agent of China, brokering arms deals for Chinese companies, violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and making false statements to federal agents.

The eight-count indictment comes almost five months after Luft, an Israeli-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was arrested in Cyprus in connection with the charges. He later fled after being released on bail while awaiting extradition to the United States and remains at large.

FILE - James Woolsey, former CIA director
FILE - James Woolsey, former CIA director

Luft's research group, based outside Washington, was co-founded by former CIA Director James Woolsey and the late Robert McFarlane, who served as a national security adviser to former President Ronald Reagan.

While heading the institute in 2016, Luft allegedly "agreed to covertly recruit and pay" a former senior U.S. official who was an adviser to then-President-elect Donald Trump to publicly push policies favorable to China.

Prosecutors say Luft did this on behalf of China-based "principals," including CEFC China Energy, a Chinese state-owned energy company.

At the time, the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security received $350,000 in annual payments from CEFC China Energy's nonprofit arm, according to court documents.

Neither Luft nor the high-ranking official registered as a foreign agent as required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, prosecutors say.

The indictment does not name the high-ranking U.S. official, but in a recent video shared with the New York Post, Luft identified him as Woolsey.

FILE - The CEFC logo is seen at CEFC China Energy's office in Shanghai, China, May 3, 2018.
FILE - The CEFC logo is seen at CEFC China Energy's office in Shanghai, China, May 3, 2018.

As part of the scheme, prosecutors say Luft in the weeks before the 2016 election created a written "dialogue" between Woolsey and a Chinese associate of CEFC China Energy.

The unnamed Chinese associate's description in the indictment fits that of Patrick Ho, a former Hong Kong home affairs secretary and head of a nonprofit funded by CEFC China Energy.

The purported "conversations" between Woolsey and Ho were later published in China Daily online and shared with a journalist and professors at multiple U.S. universities.

FILE - Patrick Ho, former Hong Kong home affairs secretary and deputy chairman of a non-governmental organization funded by CEFC China Energy, smiles during an interview in Hong Kong, July 2015.
FILE - Patrick Ho, former Hong Kong home affairs secretary and deputy chairman of a non-governmental organization funded by CEFC China Energy, smiles during an interview in Hong Kong, July 2015.

Luft allegedly wrote Woolsey's responses and later told Ho that information favorable to China had been "tucked between the lines." After the 2016 election, Luft and Ho allegedly discussed a "silent trip" to China by the former CIA director.

Ho was arrested in New York in 2017 on charges of bribing African leaders on behalf of CEFC China. He was later convicted and sentenced to three years in prison before being released in 2020.

Prosecutors say Luft has remained outside the United States since Ho's arrest.

A recent Washington Post investigation found that Biden's son Hunter Biden, and the president's brother James Biden, signed an agreement with CEFC officials in 2017, and that entities controlled by them received $4.8 million over the course of 14 months, though the energy projects discussed with CEFC did not pan out.

The two men have faced allegations of corruption for pursuing business deals that capitalize on their family name. They have denied any wrongdoing.

In the video shared with the New York Post, Luft denied the criminal charges against him and said he was forced to skip bail in Cyprus because he did not believe he would receive "a fair trial in a New York court."

Luft claimed he had been arrested to prevent him from testifying before a House of Representatives panel about his allegations that members of the president's family received payments from CEFC China Energy and individuals with alleged ties to Chinese military intelligence.

In the video, Luft said he provided evidence of the Biden family's alleged corruption to the FBI and the Justice Department during a meeting in Brussels in March 2019.

In addition to acting as an unregistered agent of China, Luft is accused of brokering illicit Chinese arms deals.

Luft allegedly worked to broker a deal for Chinese companies to sell certain weapons to Libya, including anti-tank launchers, grenade launchers and mortar rounds. Luft and his associates allegedly referred to the weapons as "toys," prosecutors say.

In addition, Luft allegedly worked to facilitate arms sales by Chinese companies to Kenya and the United Arab Emirates.

Luft is also accused of conspiring with others to broker Iranian oil deals, allegedly directing an associate to refer to the oil as Brazilian in origin to avert U.S. sanctions, according to court documents.

While in hiding, Luft has taken to social media to decry the charges against him as politically motivated.

Conservative lawmakers pushing for an investigation of the Biden family have rallied around Luft in recent days, calling him a "whistleblower" and the "missing witness" from the probe.

Luft could not be reached for comment.

In a statement to VOA, the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security voiced support for Luft.

"Dr. Gal Luft is a world renowned expert on energy security, economics and geopolitics and has written five books," the statement said. "Gal is a man of total integrity and honesty. We are confident in his innocence."

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