Ex-Trump fundraiser charged with illicit lobbying on 1MDB, China

According to the indictment, Elliot Broidy personally asked US President Donald Trump to invite Najib Razak to play golf in September 2017. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: A former leading fundraiser for President Donald Trump has been indicted on a charge that he illegally lobbied the US government to drop its probe into the 1MDB corruption scandal and to deport an exiled Chinese billionaire.

Elliott Broidy was charged in Washington federal court with one count of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent after allegedly agreeing to take millions of dollars to lobby the Trump administration.

The indictment, made public on Thursday, said Broidy was recruited in 2017 by an unnamed foreign national, understood to be fugitive financer Low Taek Jho, to pressure US officials to end their investigation of a scandal engulfing former prime minister Najib Razak.

The scandal involved the theft of over US$4.5 billion from 1MDB, and Low, also known as Jho Low, was central to moving and hiding some of the stolen funds.

At the time, Broidy was national deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after having been a major fundraiser for Trump’s successful 2016 presidential campaign.

After being recruited by Low, Broidy personally asked Trump to invite Najib to play golf during the Malaysian leader’s September 2017 visit to the US, the indictment said.

The goal was to give Najib a chance “to attempt to resolve the 1MDB matter” with the US leader, the document said.

The golf game never happened, and Low was indicted in 2018 for his role in siphoning off billions from 1MDB.

In addition, in May 2017 Low introduced Broidy to a Chinese state minister, and they discussed Beijing’s desire that Washington deport an exiled Chinese tycoon, the indictment said.

It did not name either person, but the tycoon is known to be Guo Wengui, a prominent dissident businessman.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Chinese official was Sun Lijun, at the time Beijing’s powerful vice minister of public security.

The indictment describes Broidy’s intense lobbying of the White House, the Justice Department and law enforcement on behalf of the Chinese, including contacts with but not direct discussions with Trump.

The object of the lobbying conspiracy, the indictment said, was “to make millions of dollars by leveraging Broidy’s access to and perceived influence with the president and his administration”.

The indictment came just weeks after a key partner of Low and Broidy, Hawaii businesswoman Nickie Mali Lum Davis, pleaded guilty to a charge of illegal lobbying both on the 1MDB case and the Guo case.

Guo remains in the US, where he has continued to campaign against Beijing authorities, working closely with another longtime Trump associate, Steve Bannon.

Bannon was arrested in August while aboard Guo’s yacht off the coast of Connecticut and charged with defrauding donors to a Mexican border wall project.