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Head of US-based thinktank charged with acting as China agent

Gal Luft, director of a Washington-based organization is accused of recruiting and paying a former adviser to Donald Trump

July 11, 2023

The leader of a thinktank based in Washington DC has been charged with acting as an unregistered agent of China. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AFP/Getty Images

The head of a US thinktank has been charged with acting as an unregistered agent of China, as well as seeking to broker the sale of weapons and Iranian oil, federal prosecutors in Manhattan said.

Gal Luft, a citizen of the United States and Israel, is accused of recruiting and paying a former high-ranking US government official on behalf of principals based in China in 2016, without registering as a foreign agent as required by law.

Prosecutors did not identify the former official, but said he was working as an adviser to then president-elect Donald Trump at the time. Luft is accused of pushing the adviser to support policies favorable to China, including by drafting comments in the adviser’s name that were published in a Chinese newspaper.

A Twitter account bearing Luft’s name, with more than 15,000 followers, said in an 18 February tweet that he had been arrested in Cyprus “on a politically motivated extradition request by the US”.

“I’ve never been an arms dealer,” Luft said in the tweet. He did not immediately respond to a direct message sent by the Reuters seeking comment.

Luft, 57, was arrested in February in Cyprus on US charges, but fled after being released on bail while awaiting extradition, prosecutors said. He is not currently in US custody.

Luft is co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, which describes itself as a Washington DC-based thinktank focused on energy, security and economic trends.

The thinktank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors allege Luft brokered a deal for Chinese companies to sell weapons to countries including Libya, the United Arab Emirates and Kenya, despite lacking a licence to do so as required by US law.

He is also accused of setting up meetings between Iranian officials and a Chinese energy company to discuss oil deals, despite US sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.


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