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FBI seizes data, investigates retired Gen. John Allen in illegal Qatar lobbying case

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The FBI is investigating a retired General who has been accused of making false statements and withholding evidence of his role in an illegal lobbying campaign for Qatar.

Retired Marine Gen. John R. Allen formerly led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before becoming president of the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

According to available court documents, Allen is suspected of illegal efforts in 2017 to influence U.S. policy in regard to Qatar, during a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its rival neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the New York Times, Allen was joined in this work by two other men, Richard G. Olson and Imad Zuberi.

Olson is the former U.S. Ambassador to the UAE and Pakistan, and Imaad Zuberi is described as “a business executive with ties in the Middle East.”

Both have already been investigated and charged, with Olson pleading guilty to federal charges of lobbying for Qatar.  Zuberi is currently serving a 12-year sentence for charges of corruption.

According to the Associated Press, Olson recently pointed fingers at Allen, asking why Allen was not facing charges as well after working “side by side” with him on Qatar.

Allen, for his part:

“has denied ever working as a Qatari agent and said his efforts on Qatar in 2017 were motivated to prevent a war from breaking out in the Gulf that would put U.S. troops at risk.”

Federal court filings, however, describe an entirely different matter.

The New York Times reports:

“The plan described in the documents involving General Allen unfolded around the beginning of the Trump administration five years ago, after he had left the military and before he became president of the Brookings Institution think tank. 

“Qatar was frantically trying to fend off a pressure campaign and economic embargo by its Persian Gulf rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

“Rumors were circulating of a possible Saudi ground invasion, Mr. Trump appeared to back the Saudis and Emiratis, and both sides of the dispute were spending heavily to win favor in Washington.”

Zuberi, as reported in the Times, saw a “business opportunity” in the midst of this crisis, and contacted Olson, who brought in Allen.

Zuberi wrote to Olson in a message:

“If we can do this we will own half of Qatar.”

The federal documents note that Allen agreed to go to Doha, Qatar’s capital, at the expense of Zuberi, and Allen arranged for payment of a “speaker’s fee” of $20,000 to himself, even though he made no speeches.

The documents do say that first-class airfare was covered by Zuberi, but “investigation has not uncovered evidence that Zuberi paid the ‘speaking engagement’ fee or any other compensation to Allen.”

Also, the documents state that Allen “pursued at least one multimillion-dollar business deal with the Qatari government on behalf of a company on whose board of directors he served.”

According to the Associated Press, while in Qatar, Allen and Olson met with top officials and advised them on “how to influence U.S. policy.”

Also, during the aforementioned period of unrest in the Persian Gulf, Allen met “several times” with American officials, including members of Congress and then-White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

According to the Associated Press, Allen approached McMaster with a request for the U.S. to “adopt more Qatar-friendly tone.”

The AP continues:

“In an email to McMaster, Allen said the Qataris wanted the White House or State Department to issue a statement with language calling on all sides of the Gulf diplomatic crisis to ‘act with restraint.’

“Federal law enforcement officials say then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did just that two days later, issuing a statement that called on other Gulf countries to ‘ease the blockade against Qatar’ and asked ‘that there be no further escalation by the parties in the region.’

During his meetings with McMaster and members of Congress, according to the documents, Allen never disclosed that he was being paid for his work in relation to Qatar:

“Allen’s production was devoid of any documents that revealed his financial interest in the diplomatic crisis and nearly devoid of any documents showing the involvement of Zuberi and Olson.”

Beau Phillips, spokesman for Allen, has said in a statement:

“John Allen voluntarily cooperated with the government’s investigation into this matter. 

“John Allen’s efforts with regard to Qatar in 2017 were to protect the interests of the United States and the military personnel stationed in Qatar. 

“John Allen received no fee for his efforts.”

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