Federal Jury Convicts Three Defendants of Interstate Stalking of Chinese Nationals in the U.S. and Two of Those Defendants for Acting or Conspiring to Act on Behalf of the People's Republic of China
BROOKLYN, NY – A seven-count indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Thomas Joseph Barrack, Matthew Grimes, and Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, also known as “Rashid Al Malik” and “Rashid Al‑Malik,” a citizen of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with acting and conspiring to act as agents of the UAE between April 2016 and April 2018. The indictment charges conduct relating to the defendants’ unlawful efforts to advance the interests of the UAE in the United States at the direction of senior UAE officials by influencing the foreign policy positions of the campaign of a candidate (the “Candidate”) in the 2016 United States Presidential Election (the “Campaign”) and, subsequently, the foreign policy positions of the United States government in the incoming administration, as well as seeking to influence public opinion in favor of UAE interests. The indictment also charges Barrack with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements during a June 20, 2019 interview with federal law enforcement agents.
Barrack and Grimes were arrested this morning in California and are scheduled to make their initial appearances this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Patricia Donahue at the federal courthouse in Los Angeles. Alshahhi remains at large.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Mark J. Lesko, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the arrests and indictment.
“As alleged, the defendants, using their positions of power and influence in a presidential election year, engaged in a conspiracy to illegally advance and promote the interests of the United Arab Emirates in this country, in flagrant violation of their obligation to notify the Attorney General of their activities and in derogation of the American people’s right to know when a foreign government seeks to influence the policies of our government and our public opinion,” stated Acting United States Attorney Kasulis. “These arrests serve as a warning to those who act at the direction of foreign governments without disclosing their actions, as well as those who seek to mislead investigators about their actions, that they will be brought to justice and face the consequences.”
Ms. Kasulis expressed her appreciation to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado and the FBI’s Los Angeles and Denver Field Offices for their assistance.
“The defendants repeatedly capitalized on Barrack’s friendships and access to a candidate who was eventually elected President, high-ranking campaign and government officials, and the American media to advance the policy goals of a foreign government without disclosing their true allegiances,” stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Lesko. “The conduct alleged in the indictment is nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former President. Through this indictment, we are putting everyone—regardless of their wealth or perceived political power—on notice that the Department of Justice will enforce the prohibition of this sort of undisclosed foreign influence.”
“American citizens have a right to know when foreign governments, or their agents, are attempting to exert influence on our government. This is especially important to Americans during a Presidential election year, and the laws on the books were created to protect our nation from such untoward influence. This case is about secret attempts to influence our highest officials, and when that corrupt behavior was discovered, we allege Mr. Barrack went even further, obstructing and lying to FBI special agents. In case it needs repeating, each of those bad choices is a federal felony, and each now comes with significant consequences - the first being today's indictment,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.
Between April 2016 and November 2016, Barrack served as an informal advisor to the Campaign of the Candidate in the 2016 United States Presidential Election. Between November 2016 and January 2017, Barrack served as Chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Beginning in January 2017, Barrack informally advised senior United States government officials on issues related to United States foreign policy in the Middle East. Barrack also sought appointment to a senior role in the United States government, including the role of Special Envoy to the Middle East. Barrack served as the Executive Chairman of a global investment management firm headquartered in Los Angeles, and Grimes was employed at the firm and reported directly to Barrack. During the relevant time period, Alshahhi worked as an agent of the UAE and was in frequent contact with Barrack and Grimes, including numerous in-person meetings in the United States and the UAE.
As alleged in the indictment, the defendants used Barrack’s status as a senior outside advisor to the Campaign and, subsequently, to senior United States government officials, to advance the interests of and provide intelligence to the UAE while simultaneously failing to notify the Attorney General that their actions were taken at the direction of senior UAE officials. Barrack – directly and through Alshahhi and Grimes – was regularly and repeatedly in contact with the senior leadership of the UAE government. On multiple occasions, Barrack referred to Alshahhi as the UAE’s “secret weapon” to advance its foreign policy agenda in the United States.
Barrack, Alshahhi and Grimes allegedly took numerous steps in the United States to advance the interests of the UAE. For example, in May 2016, Barrack inserted language praising the UAE into a Campaign speech to be delivered by the Candidate about United States energy policy in May 2016 and emailed an advance draft of the speech to Alshahhi for delivery to senior UAE officials. Similarly, throughout 2016 and 2017, the defendants sought and received direction and feedback, including talking points, from senior UAE officials in connection with national press appearances Barrack used to promote the interests of the UAE. After one appearance in which Barrack repeatedly praised the United Arab Emirates, Barrack emailed Alshahhi, “I nailed it. . . for the home team,” referring to the UAE. Barrack and Grimes also solicited direction from senior UAE officials in advance of the publication of an Op-Ed authored by Barrack and published in a national magazine in October 2016 and removed certain language at the direction of senior UAE officials, as relayed by Alshahhi.
Following the 2016 United States Presidential Election, the defendants repeatedly acted at the direction of UAE officials to influence the foreign policy positions of the incoming administration in favor of UAE interests. For example, in December 2016, Barrack met with Grimes, Alshahhi and senior UAE government officials, during which he advised them to create a “wish list” of U.S. foreign policy items that the UAE wanted accomplished in the first 100 days, six months, year and four years of the incoming administration of the United States President-Elect.
In March 2017, Barrack and his co-defendants agreed to promote the candidacy of an individual favored by senior UAE officials for the position of United States Ambassador to the UAE. In May 2017, Barrack agreed to provide Alshahhi with non-public information about the views and reactions of senior United States government officials following a White House meeting between senior United States officials and senior UAE officials.
In September 2017, Alshahhi communicated with Barrack about the opposition of the UAE to a proposed summit at Camp David to address an ongoing dispute between the State of Qatar, the UAE and other Middle Eastern governments, after which Barrack sought to advise the President of the United States against holding the Camp David summit. The summit never happened.
In furtherance of the alleged criminal conspiracy and conduct, Barrack and Grimes, with the assistance of Alshahhi, acquired a dedicated cellular telephone and installed a secure messaging application to facilitate Barrack’s communications with senior UAE officials.
Neither Alshahhi, nor Barrack nor Grimes provided the required notification to the United States Attorney General that they were acting in the United States as agents of a foreign government.
On June 20, 2019, Barrack voluntarily met with FBI special agents. During the interview, Barrack allegedly made numerous false statements, including falsely denying that Alshahhi had ever requested that he take any actions on behalf of the UAE.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Public Integrity Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Nathan Reilly, Ryan Harris, Samuel Nitze and Hiral Mehta of the Eastern District of New York and Trial Attorney Matthew McKenzie from the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are in charge of the prosecution.
RASHID SULTAN RASHID AL MALIK ALSHAHHI (also known as “Rashid Al Malik” and “Rashid Al‑Malik”)
United Arab Emirates
THOMAS JOSEPH BARRACK
Santa Monica, California
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-371 (BMC)
United States Attorney's Office