Republican Fundraiser Expected to Plead Guilty to Violating Foreign Lobbying Law, Sources Say

Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy is expected to plead guilty to violating a foreign lobbying law, according to people familiar with the matter, the latest development in a sprawling investigation into a multibillion-dollar alleged fraud at a Malaysian fund that has ensnared a cast of characters, from

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

to a rap star.

Mr. Broidy was charged in a criminal-information document filed Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C., with conspiring to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law that requires lobbyists for foreign nationals to register that work. The document accused Mr. Broidy of failing to report work for which he was paid at least $6 million by the man accused of masterminding the alleged fraud, Jho Low, to try to influence the Justice Department investigation into the scandal. Prosecutors usually use that type of document when they have reached an agreement with a defendant, and Mr. Broidy is expected to plead guilty to the charge in the coming days, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Broidy’s lobbying effort included unsuccessful attempts in 2017 to arrange a golf game between President Trump and the then-Malaysian prime minister and to push for the removal of a Chinese fugitive in the U.S., the document said.

That yearslong investigation into the alleged 1MDB fraud has led to a series of criminal and civil cases that outline a scheme in which Mr. Low allegedly orchestrated the siphoning off of at least $4.5 billion from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. sovereign-wealth fund, some of which Mr. Low spent on lavish parties, artwork and real estate he has since forfeited to the U.S., investigators allege. He has denied wrongdoing. 

Jho Low, shown in 2014, the alleged mastermind of the 1MDB scandal, who according to allegations paid Mr. Broidy at least $6 million.



Photo:

Scott Roth/Associated Press

Cases emerging from an offshoot of that investigation, along with reporting by The Wall Street Journal and other publications, have also laid bare an extensive effort by Mr. Low to try to scale back the U.S. investigation, hiring top Republican lawyers and consultants with ties to Mr. Trump. Mr. Low worked with former Fugees rapperPras Michel to move money into the U.S. with the help of a then-Justice Department employee to vouch for the funds to U.S. banks, using those funds to pay Mr. Broidy and others, some of the participants have acknowledged. Mr. Low faces multiple criminal cases in the U.S. He is believed to be under the protection of China, the Journal has reported.

The case against Mr. Broidy comes one month after his business partner in the work for Mr. Low, Nickie Lum Davis, pleaded guilty to similar charges in Hawaii. According to court documents filed in connection with her case, Ms. Davis admitted she violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act by not reporting both her work for Mr. Low and for a then-senior Chinese government official who was seeking the return in 2017 of one of China’s most-wanted fugitives in the U.S.

In the new charging document, Mr. Broidy is accused of working on behalf of Mr. Low, and not the Chinese official, Sun Lijun, China’s then-vice minister of public security. Ms. Davis said that she and Messrs. Broidy and Low met in a hotel suite in Shenzhen in May 2017 to discuss the removal from the U.S. of the fugitive, Guo Wengui. The new filing says that the group also discussed the potential return to the U.S. of Americans held in China.

At the time of his alleged work for Mr. Low, Mr. Broidy was deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Earlier, Mr. Broidy was a vice chairman for the Trump campaign’s joint fundraising committee with the Republican Party during the 2016 campaign, helping it bring in more than $108 million. He also runs a company that provides open-source intelligence research and analysis for foreign governments and other clients.

Mr. Broidy has also garnered public attention after his emails were hacked and distributed publicly in 2018. Mr. Broidy had blamed Qatar for the hack, which came after Mr. Broidy sponsored two conferences critical of Qatar and obtained a contract with the Gulf country’s rival, United Arab Emirates. Qatar has denied involvement in the hack. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn had been examining whether he had been paid by his firm’s foreign and prospective clients to give them special access to attend the 2017 inauguration, but they ultimately closed that investigation without bringing charges last year, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak was sentenced this past summer to 12 years in prison in Malaysia for his role in the 1MDB scandal.



Photo:

Samsul Said/Bloomberg News

The document, filed against Mr. Broidy on Thursday, alleged Mr. Broidy and the others met with Mr. Low in May 2017 in a hotel in Bangkok, where Mr. Broidy agreed to lobby the Trump administration for a “favorable result” for Mr. Low while “concealing the fact” that he was working on Mr. Low’s behalf.

As part of that effort, the document alleged, Mr. Broidy soon began asking the White House for a meeting and golf session between Mr. Trump and Malaysia’s then-prime minister, Najib Razak, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Malaysia this summer for his role in the 1MDB scandal.

Mr. Broidy had also sought the meeting in hopes that it could help bring his firm new business from Malaysia, the document said.

Messrs. Najib and Trump met at the White House in September 2017, and a White House official has previously said the Justice Department probe wasn’t raised.

The next month, Mr. Broidy met with the president, later telling Mr. Low that he had raised the 1MDB investigation, according to Ms. Davis’s plea agreement. The new charging document says Mr. Broidy didn’t raise the 1MDB matters with Mr. Trump, even though he told Ms. Davis otherwise.

A 1MDB billboard at a development in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2016.



Photo:

REUTERS

The expected plea from Mr. Broidy along with other related developments suggest the yearslong investigations are nearing a conclusion.

Goldman Sachs, which helped 1MDB raise $6.5 billion, socked away $1.1 billion late last year and $2 billion more in the second quarter to help pay anticipated penalties in connection with the U.S. investigation; a settlement with the U.S. hasn’t been announced. In July, Goldman agreed to a $3.9 billion settlement with Malaysia to resolve a related probe there.

Write to Aruna Viswanatha at [email protected]

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