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News / Nation & World

GOP hails him as Hunter Biden whistleblower; Manhattan feds say he was really Chinese agent who brokered Iran arms and oil deals

By Molly Crane-Newman, New York Daily News
Published: July 12, 2023, 8:10am

A think tank director and energy analyst hailed by Republicans as a Hunter Biden whistleblower illegally advanced Chinese interests in the U.S. and violated laws barring him from selling Chinese weapons and arranging Chinese purchases of Iranian oil, Manhattan federal prosecutors say.

Gal Luft, 57, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, has been out of the U.S. since November 2017, according to an indictment filed last November and unsealed Monday.

He was arrested in Cyprus in February, the feds say — but while the terms of his extradition were being negotiated, he skipped bail. His current whereabouts are not known.

Republican lawmakers in recent months have hailed Luft as a key witness in their various probes of President Joe Biden and his family, and claim Luft went missing before he was to provide evidence about the Biden family’s alleged business dealings with China.

But the Justice Department says it has been investigating Luft for years and that he’s a serial liar. He faces an eight-count indictment that includes charges of making false statements, failing to register as a foreign agent, and violating federal laws related to arms dealing and economic sanctions against Iran.

The most serious charges carry a 20-year prison sentence.

Luft “subverted foreign agent registration laws in the United States to seek to promote Chinese policies by acting through a former high-ranking U.S. government official; he acted as a broker in deals for dangerous weapons and Iranian oil,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said. “And he told multiple lies about his crimes to law enforcement.”

But House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., described Luft in a tweet Friday as a “very credible” witness. Comer doubled down Tuesday, saying CEFC, the Chinese energy company with which Luft was associated, “wired millions” to the Bidens.

And Luft himself said on Twitter at the time of his arrest that the Justice Department was trying to “bury” him to protect President Biden and members of the Biden family.

Williams’ office says Luft declined to register as a foreign agent when he agreed to recruit and pay a former high-ranking government official who was an aide to then president-elect Donald Trump in 2016 to support Chinese policies.

Luft began working with an unnamed co-conspirator — identified as Hong Kong’s former Secretary for Home Affairs — to advance Chinese interests in the U.S. the year before Trump was elected, the feds charge.

The co-conspirator was then head of the China Energy Fund Committee, connected to state-run Chinese oil and gas conglomerate CEFC, with which Luft has accused Hunter Biden of engaging in dirty deals.

According to The Washington Post, Biden’s son was involved in later-scrapped multimillion-dollar deals with CEFC in 2017.

Luft allegedly discussed parts of the schemes he and his co-conspirator hatched with the former high-ranking government official, who was a top aide to Trump in late 2016. The aide is not directly identified in Luft’s indictment.

The feds say the co-conspirator offered to pay Luft’s think tank $350,000 per year — including one payment in December 2015 and another in January 2017 — as part of a plan to help smooth business relations between China and the U.S.

That plan included planning an international meeting in the U.S. for a “Cabinet-level” extra-governmental committee.

The duo also drew up a “dialogue” between the unnamed co-conspirator and James Woolsey, who was director of the CIA from 1993 to 1995, during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Woolsey was an adviser to Trump in 2016.

The dialogue consisted of stories in state-run Chinese media in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election and was blasted to the inboxes of journalists and professors in the U.S.

Luft told his co-conspirator he had learned Woolsey would “lead the international security/china/(Iran) policies for the actual (presidential) transition team!” in one exchange included in the indictment.

“Impressed! (In) these articles, we do not want to spill all the beans yet, just enough to let ‘people’ know (Woolsey) is in the corridor of power to be,” Luft’s co-conspirator replied.

Woolsey’s quotes appeared in China Daily on Dec. 1, 2016. They line up with quotes cited in Luft’s indictment that are attributed to the top Trump adviser he is accused of recruiting to the screme.

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“We want to joyfully participate with China in international trade operations and economic growth. I think we have no reason why China and the U.S. cannot be friendly nations,” Woolsey is quoted saying. The feds say those words were written by Luft.

Luft told his unnamed co-conspirator that information favorable to China had been “tucked between the lines” of the China Daily pieces.

The pair also discussed what role Woolsey might play in the incoming Trump administration, with Luft saying it could present a “supremely unique opportunity for China.”

Luft is also charged with taking commissions as a middleman in backdoor arms deals, brokering a sale to Libya of anti-tank launchers, grenade launchers, and mortar rounds from a Chinese company — items he described as “toys.”

He’s also accused of brokering sales of aerial bombs and rockets to the United Arab Emirates and unmanned aerial vehicles to Kenya, and of brokering an Iranian oil deal.

Luft’s lawyer could not be reached Tuesday. Woolsey did not respond to a request for comment.

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