Top US general accused of corrupt lobbying
Former US Marine Corps General John Allen could face criminal charges over his alleged role in an illegal lobbying campaign for the Qatari government, according to FBI documents obtained by the Associated Press. The filing indicates the high-ranking officer misled US authorities about the nature of his work and how he stood to personally gain from his dealings with Doha.
Allen provided a “false version of events” when interviewed by law enforcement about the lobbying efforts in 2020 and likely violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the FBI said in a 77-page search warrant application seen by the AP.
“There is substantial evidence that these FARA violations were willful,” wrote FBI agent Babak Adib, referring to a law requiring those working on behalf of foreign interests to register with the Justice Department and disclose their activities.
The general, who took up the top post at the Brookings Institution thinktank in 2017 after leading US and NATO forces in Afghanistan under President Barack Obama, worked “behind the scenes” to influence American policy in favor of Qatar following a major diplomatic spat between the Gulf kingdom and its neighbors in 2017. However, Allen misrepresented the lobbying and failed to disclose that he was “simultaneously pursuing multimillion-dollar business deals with the government of Qatar,” Adib added.
According to the AP, the document outlining the case against Allen “appears to have been filed in error,” but was removed from the docket on Tuesday after the outlet requested comment from federal officials. The retired general declined to speak on the filing, but previously denied working as a Qatari agent, while a spokesperson recently told the AP that he “voluntarily cooperated with the government’s investigation into this matter.”
The probe into Allen comes as part of a wider investigation surrounding Richard Olson, who served as US ambassador to both the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan between 2008 and 2015. Last week, Olson pleaded guilty to federal charges linked to lobbying for Qatar, demanding to know why Allen also hadn’t been indicted, as he claims to have worked closely with the general to sway US policy. Pakistani-American businessman Imaad Zuberi, a high-profile political donor, has also been implicated in the scheme and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in February.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE and a number of allied states broke diplomatic ties with Doha and closed their borders, airspace and waters to the country in 2017, citing Qatar’s alleged ties to terrorist groups and warmer relations with Iran. The crisis was largely resolved early last year, after Riyadh and several of its partners agreed to begin a reconciliation process under a US- and Kuwaiti-brokered deal. It is unclear whether the alleged lobbying by Olson, Zuberi or Allen had any impact on American policy toward Qatar throughout the spat.