LA billionaire and Trump ally charged with acting as agent of United Arab Emirates
Los Angeles, California – Thomas Barrack, the chair of former President Trump’s inaugural committee and a prominent Southern California businessman and philanthropist, was arrested Tuesday on federal charges. He and others are accused of engaging in a conspiracy to shape Trump’s foreign policy for the benefit of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and later lying to investigators.
Barrack (74) and two other men were indicted in a New York federal court and accused of acting and conspiring to act as agents of the UAE between April 2016 – during Trump’s first presidential campaign – and April 2019.
The indictment also accuses Barrack of obstructing justice and making several false statements in a 2019 interview with federal agents.
A spokesperson for Barrack said he "has made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset." He added in a statement: "He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty."
Barrack is scheduled to appear Tuesday afternoon at a federal court in downtown Los Angeles.
"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," acting Assistant Attorney General Mark Lesko said in a release.
Lesko framed the allegations as revealing "nothing short of a betrayal of those officials in the United States, including the former president."
Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York field office said, "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."
Barrack has extensive ties to the Middle East
Barrack – who has a net worth of $1 billion, according to Forbes – has been friends with Trump for the last three decades, and he planned the president’s inauguration in early 2017.
Barrack’s Los Angeles-based Colony Capital is a publicly held investment firm with $44 billion of assets under management that often bets on distressed assets. In 2008, for instance, Colony bailed out Michael Jackson when the late singer’s Neverland Ranch was on the brink of foreclosure.
The grandson of Lebanese Christian immigrants, Barrack also has business ties to the Mideast – and a deep knowledge of its politics and cultures – dating to the early 1970s, when as an attorney he worked on a project in Saudi Arabia and then spent the next four years there as an adviser to the royal family.
At Colony Capital, Barrack also has tapped various Mideast investors to help fund the firm’s operations.
With partners from Qatar, Barrack was part of an investment group that bought Miramax Films in 2010, later selling the studio to investors in Qatar. However, his dealings have been complicated since a blockade of Qatar started in 2017 by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Cover photo: IMAGO / UPI Photo