Lawyer of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi is sentenced to three years in prison by the UAE for money laundering and tax evasion
- Asim Ghafoor has been sentenced to three years in prison on tax evasion charge
- The lawyer is also accused of money laundering and was arrested in Dubai
- Ghafoor was lawyer to Jamal Khashoggi — the dissident Saudi journalist who was killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018
The United Arab Emirates has sentenced an American lawyer to three years in prison on charges of money laundering and tax evasion.
Asim Ghafoor was lawyer to Jamal Khashoggi — the dissident Saudi journalist who was killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Ghafoor will be deported, the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported late on Saturday, without saying when.
The Abu Dhabi Money Laundering Court also ordered him to pay a fine of $816,748 (£688,000) after convicting him in his absence.
Asim Ghafoor has been sentenced an American lawyer to three years in prison on charges of money laundering and tax evasion
The UAE framed Ghafoor’s arrest as a co-ordinated move with the US to ‘combat transnational crimes’.
Emirati state-run media said American authorities had requested the UAE’s help with an investigation into Ghafoor’s alleged tax evasion and suspicious money transfers in the Emirates.
The autocratic Gulf Arab sheikhdom announced the prison sentence a day after Washington-based human rights watchdog Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn) raised the alarm about Ghafoor’s arrest at Dubai International Airport.
Asim Ghafoor was lawyer to Jamal Khashoggi (pictured) — the dissident Saudi journalist who was killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018
Dawn said its board member, a civil rights lawyer based in Virginia who had represented Mr Khashoggi and his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, was in transit to Istanbul on Thursday to attend a wedding when plain-clothes Emirati security agents picked him up and sent him to an Abu Dhabi detention facility before he could change planes.
Ghafoor had no knowledge of any case against him and had transited through Dubai without incident less than a year ago, Dawn added.
The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It comes as President Joe Biden accused a Saudi official of lying about the topics discussed in his private meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, while again downplaying his infamous fist bump with the prince.
Early on Sunday, Biden arrived back at the White House from his four-day Middle East tour, and briefly took questions from reporters gathered on the South Lawn.
Hours earlier, just after Air Force One had taken off from Jeddah, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir called a Fox News reporter and claimed that he ‘did not hear’ Biden confront bin Salman, known as MBS, over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Al-Jubeir’s claim seems to directly contradict Biden’s account of the meeting with MBS on Friday, after which the president said that he had raised Khashoggi’s murder ‘at the top of the meeting’ and accused the crown prince of directing the plot.
President Joe Biden has accused a Saudi minister of lying about the topics discussed in his private meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
On the South Lawn, when asked if al-Jubeir was telling the truth about the meeting, Biden bluntly replied ‘No’.
Saudi officials have offered conflicting accounts of the conversation between Biden and MBS, and whether Khashoggi’s murder was discussed.
On Friday, Saudi Foreign Minster Faisal bin Farhan seemed to tell reporters that Biden did raise Khashoggi’s murder at the meeting.
Bin Farhan said that MBS responded by slamming the US over its own abuses of human rights, including the notorious mistreatment of prisoners by military personnel at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.
Returning to the White House on Sunday, Biden also responded dismissively when asked whether he regrets his now infamous fist bump with MBS, saying: ‘Why don’t you guys talk about something that matters? I’m happy to answer a question that matters.’
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir (above) claimed that he ‘did not hear’ Biden confront MBS over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
It came after the president laughed when questioned about criticism of the fist bump by a DailyMail.com reporter at a Friday press conference.
Nevertheless, the fist bump has become the defining image of Biden’s Mideast tour, appearing on the front page of the Washington Post, where Khashoggi penned columns critical of Saudi leadership.
The image of the friendly fist bump drew harsh backlash from the publisher of the Washington Post and the widow of Khashoggi, who was killed in a gruesome assassination that US intelligence services say bin Salman ordered.
On Friday, Biden had insisted that he brought up Khashoggi’s murder in his meeting with MBS, which was closed to the press.
‘In respect to the murder of Khashoggi, I raised it at the top of the meeting, making it clear what I thought of it at the time, and what I think of it now,’ Biden told reporters from a Jeddah hotel after his meetings with the Saudis. ‘I was straightforward and direct … I made my view crystal clear.’
A handout photo of President Joe Biden (left) fist-bumping Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) as he arrived for a meeting with the controversial royal Friday evening in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
‘What happened to Khashoggi was outrageous,’ Biden later offered.
Biden told reporters that MBS ‘basically said he was not personally responsible’ for the gruesome killing that took place in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
‘I indicated I thought he was,’ Biden continued. ‘He said he was not personally responsible for it and he took action against those who were responsible.’
An American intelligence report said MBS directed the assassination of Khashoggi, a Saudi-born critic of the kingdom, who was living in the United States.
After Biden fist-bumped MBS as he arrived for a series of Friday night meetings at the Al Salman Royal Palace in Jeddah, Fred Ryan, the publisher and CEO of The Washington Post – which employed Khashoggi – called Biden’s fist bump with the crown prince ‘shameful.’
‘The fist bump between President Biden and Mohammed bin Salman was worse than a handshake – it was shameful,’ Ryan said in a statement. ‘It projected a level of intimacy and comfort that delivers to MBS the unwarranted redemption he has been desperately seeking.’
Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, shared what she believed her late love’s reaction would be to the fist bump: ‘Is this the accountability you promised for my murder? The blood of MBS’s next victims is on your hands.’
Biden was also read Cengiz’s comments by a reporter, who then asked for the president’s response.
‘I’m sorry she feels that way,’ the president answered. ‘I was straightforward back then. I was straightforward today.’
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