ABU DHABI (Dispatches) – An Emirati businessman received money from the UAE’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) to spy on U.S. President Donald Trump’s camp and gather intelligence on his administration’s Middle East policy, a report says.
The White House, CIA and Justice Department declined to comment on the allegations, with the businessman's lawyer stressing that his client was "not an intelligence operative."
The Intercept has reported that Rashid al-Malik, an Emirati businessman whose name came up in a federal probe into possible illegal donations to pro-Trump groups, served as a secret paid intelligence source for the sheikdom's intelligence services in 2017.
The report cited official documents and unnamed sources said to be familiar with the matter.
According to the publication, al-Malik, formally working as an investment consultant, was given an official code name, and paid "tens of thousands of dollars a month" by the Emirati government to search for information on the then-incoming Trump administration's Middle East policy.
Specifically, Abu Dhabi reportedly sought to find out about Washington's stance in the conflict between Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Qatar, the details of U.S. officials' meetings with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the administration's attitudes toward the Muslim Brotherhood.
Malik, the report noted, had told his handlers that he had approached unnamed US individuals about a possible business venture that was indirectly associated with Trump.
It further named NIS Director Ali al-Shamsi as one of the Emirati government officials overseeing Malik, a former Dubai aerospace executive and chair of the investment firm Hayah Holdings.
Shamsi is "more than just a spy. He’s also a discreet messenger” for Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his brother Tahnoun, the UAE’s national security adviser, a source told The Intercept.
"Shamsi and the Emirati government clearly think they can influence Trump by doing business with him,” said a person with direct knowledge of UAE intelligence operations, requesting anonymity.
Malik’s lawyer, however, stressed that his client was "not an intelligence operative.”
"He has never been ‘tasked’ to deliver information about the inner workings of the Trump administration,” Bill Coffield said, adding that Malik has "on numerous occasions, discussed various business ideas for UAE projects in the U.S.”
Recently, The New York Times reported that investigators are looking into "whether Mr. al-Malik was part of an illegal influence scheme” as part of a probe into potential illegal donations to Trump’s inaugural fund and a pro-Trump Super Political Action Committee by Middle Eastern donors.