The co-director of a Maryland-based research group who claims to have damaging information about Hunter Biden has been charged with arms trafficking, sanctions violations and acting as an unregistered agent for China, according to a federal indictment unsealed on Monday.
In an eight-count indictment, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York accused Gal Luft, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, of violating the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Agents Registration Act in brokering arms deals between Chinese companies, Iran and countries in the Middle East.
Mr. Luft, promoted by some congressional Republicans as a keystone witness in their efforts to show corruption by the Biden family, is a fugitive from justice. He was detained by law enforcement officials in Cyprus in February in connection with the indictment, but fled after being freed on bond while awaiting extradition. If convicted, he faces up to 100 years in prison.
“He subverted foreign agent registration laws in the United States to seek to promote Chinese policies,” said Damian Williams, the top federal prosector in Manhattan, adding: “He acted as a broker in deals for dangerous weapons and Iranian oil, and he told multiple lies about his crimes to law enforcement.”
Mr. Luft has denied any wrongdoing, and claims he only became a subject of Justice Department scrutiny after discussing the Hunter Biden investigation with prosecutors who met with him in Belgium in 2019.
But prosecutors painted a portrait of Mr. Luft, who split his time between Israel and Washington, as an unscrupulous political fixer working for China who made much of his cash as a back-channel arms and oil broker.
Mr. Luft, prosecutors said, helped Chinese arms manufacturers sell anti-tank launchers, grenade launchers and mortar rounds to Libya (he referred to them as toys in communications obtained by the government), bombs and rockets to the United Arab Emirates and military drones to Kenya. He told an associate that the unwillingness of U.S. officials to sell weapons to Kenya provided them with an “opportunity” for profit, prosecutors said.
He also carved out a role as a middleman in transactions to broker sales of oil from Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions, ordering a business associate to refer to the products as Brazilian petroleum, the government charged. In one instance, Mr. Luft received a letter telling him explicitly that a shipment of the oil was Iranian but that it should be “be presented as U.A.E. origin without Iranian papers,” according to the filing.
At the same time, he was using his post as co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Gaithersburg, Md., to exert political influence on behalf of Beijing, according to the Justice Department.
In late 2016, Mr. Luft recruited and paid an unnamed former U.S. government official who was acting as an adviser for President-elect Donald J. Trump as part of a larger effort to “publicly support certain policies” favorable to China, prosecutors wrote in their filing.
In a video published by The New York Post last week, Mr. Luft claimed — without offering evidence — that he had informed Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials of wrongdoing by the Biden family, prompting what he cast as his persecution.
Representative James R. Comer, Republican of Kentucky and the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, recently described Mr. Luft as a “very credible witness on Biden family corruption” and said that he hoped to interview him, regardless of the government’s allegations.
Shortly before the indictment was unsealed, Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin and a supporter of Mr. Trump, said in an interview with Fox Business that Mr. Luft’s work on behalf of Chinese energy companies gave him a “wealth of information” about the Bidens. He provided no evidence for that assertion.
Mr. Johnson accused federal prosecutors of bringing the case against Mr. Luft “to silence him,” and said the researcher — whom he suggested was hiding out in Israel — should be granted immunity from prosecution to testify before Congress.
Democrats said that Mr. Comer and other Republicans have shown they are willing to go to any lengths to smear the Bidens, even to the point of accepting the word of a man accused of being a Chinese agent and illegal arms dealer over that of federal law enforcement officials.
“These recent revelations naturally raise serious concerns that congressional Republicans’ purported ‘whistle-blowers’ are manipulating them by tailoring misinformation to support unfounded and baseless allegations made by Chairman Comer,” said Representative Dan Goldman, a New York Democrat who served as the lead counsel for the House Intelligence Committee during Mr. Trump’s first impeachment.
Glenn Thrush covers the Department of Justice. He joined The Times in 2017 after working for Politico, Newsday, Bloomberg News, The New York Daily News, The Birmingham Post-Herald and City Limits. More about Glenn Thrush
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