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George Nader: How a convicted paedophile

became key to an Emirati hook up with


Trump

Former colleagues recall Nader, who is facing up to 40 years in prison on a


child pornography charge, as a 'village idiot' who was obsessed with money

Dania Akkad, Ian Cobain-5 July 2019


How did a convicted criminal and serial paedophile come to be one of the
main points of contact between President Trump’s inner circle and Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi?
As far back as the Reagan era, George Nader was attempting to make himself
indispensable to successive US administrations by offering back-channel lines
of communication with figures in the Middle East who might otherwise
remain out of reach.
In recent years, as a senior political advisor to the crown prince, Nader has
been helping MBZ in his dealings with both Moscow and Washington, and has
been key to the establishment of a new alliance between the Trump
administration, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
But Nader has repeatedly been caught in possession of child pornography and
has served a prison sentence for the abuse of young boys.
In June, he appeared in court yet again, charged with possessing pornography
showing boys – some as young as two or three – being physically and sexually
abused, including by animals.
One person who has known Nader for more than 25 years has told Middle
East Eye that two of Nader’s contacts – one in Washington and one a leading
political figure in the Gulf – shared what he termed “the same predilections”.
Others who know Nader - and who recall him as an awkward and anxious
man with an obsession with money and a facial tick - are asking themselves:
did his international contacts turn a blind-eye to his criminal conduct because
of his unlikely usefulness? Or does his paedophilia in some way help to explain
how he came to be linked to several countries’ intelligence agencies?
’It was amazing how little he knew’
Nader was born in 1959 and grew up in Batroun in northern Lebanon, in a
Christian family. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio when he was 15, apparently
before the outbreak of Lebanon’s civil war, and apparently with the financial
support of Lebanese industrialist Georges Frem.
Having long harboured a desire to become a journalist, Nader launched his
own magazine in 1980 from his home in Ohio – Middle East Insight. “That
first issue sold 200 copies, mostly members of my church,” Nader told the
Daily Star newspaper in Beirut.
“They probably bought them out of pity or curiosity. But in any case they
bought them.”
Khalil Jahshan, then the executive director of the National Association of
Arab-Americans in Washington DC, recalls a young Nader turning up at his
office to ask for help with editing his articles. Nader was securing interviews
with the likes of Palestinian Liberation Organisation chairman Yasser Arafat
and Farouk al-Sharaa, then foreign minister of Syria. But, says Jahshan, “his
language skills and editorial skills were very limited”.
'Money. Money, money, money. He doesn’t give a shit about anything else'
- Former Nader employee
An employee at the magazine in the early 1990s said Nader didn’t have a clue
how to run a magazine – or about the region. “It’s amazing to me how little
George knew about the Middle East,” he said.
According to the former colleague, just ahead of the famous White House
lawn handshake in 1993 between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak
Rabin over the Oslo Accords, he was talking to Nader about their coverage
plans.
“I told George, ‘We were going to do a full issue on the Israeli-Palestinian
conflicts and the Oslo Accords’. I said, ‘George, these guys are showing up at
the White House’. He said, ‘Are the Palestinians really that important?’”
Despite this, it was Nader’s ability to connect American politicians to Arab
leaders and journalists that provided him with real currency in the capital,
the colleague said.
At a time when many in Washington enjoyed close links with Israel, but few
were familiar with the Arab world, Nader filled a vacuum. “George made
himself available,” a former colleague recalls.
During the same 1993 trip, Rabin wanted to speak with Arab journalists and
asked who could put it together. “I said, ‘George Nader can,’” he said.
And Nader produced, inviting at least 40 journalists to the top of the
Washington Hotel for the event.
But the night before, the former colleague said Nader came to him on the
verge of tears, concerned about how he would introduce the Israeli prime
minister. “I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ He said, ‘I don’t know anything
about Rabin.’”
Whatever their opinions of his grammar and regional knowledge, former
associates say he had a talent for bluffing his way into obtaining high-level
contacts.
'He was a conman, but the con was pretty good'
- former colleague of Nader
“He told people he knew so and so and he didn’t know them at all,” said the
former colleague. “He was a conman, but the con was pretty good.”
A second employee, who worked for MEI in the late 1990s and hasn’t seen
Nader in 20 years, said he couldn’t defend what Nader “may or may not have
done”, but back when he knew him, he was a hard worker who earned his
contacts.
“He was tenacious. He was well-respected, including by [former secretary of
state under George H W Bush] James Baker. So anybody who says ‘How can
you back him?’ Hey, if James Baker gives him a seal of approval, who am I to
think otherwise?”
The former colleague from the early 1990s said Nader, above all else, was
fixated on cash.
“Money. Money, money, money,” he said. “He doesn’t give a shit about
anything else.”
'Diplomatic wannabe'
But while Nader wanted his magazine to be a journalistic success – and
lucrative – Jahshan says he also craved recognition as a significant player in
the politics of the region.
“He suffered from a syndrome quite common in Washington: he was a
diplomatic wannabe.”
'He was like a village idiot. But he wanted to be accepted as someone of value'
- Khalil Jahshan
Gradually, exaggerating the depth and value of his contact list, the Walter
Mitty figure transformed from a journalist with access, to an international
fixer.
In 1987, he published a widely noticed interview with Ayatollah Khomeini,
which was reproduced by the Washington Post. (Curiously, although Nader
claims his pen was confiscated before the audience, he was able to produce
700 words of verbatim quotes from the Ayatollah.)
Before long, he was meeting with leading members of Hezbollah, then with
Syrian intelligence officers and on to Israel. Jahshan noted that Nader
appeared to be working with the intelligence agencies of several countries:
“This was John le Carre material.”
But at the same time, Nader is said to have appeared to have had only a
superficial interest in the political issues of the Middle East and US foreign
policy in the region.
“He was a boring man, dull,” says Jahshan. “He was like a village idiot. But
he wanted to be accepted as someone of value.”
In 1984, however, when Nader was still in his mid 20s, he was shown to have
dangerous criminal tendencies of a sort that may have made him valuable to
some of the world’s less scrupulous leaders and their intelligence agencies.
Child pornography charges
In March that year, a US customs inspector became suspicious of a package
that was being sent to Nader from an address in Amsterdam. Opening it, he
discovered several magazines depicting naked boys engaged in sexual acts.
Customs officers searched Nader’s home and found more material of a similar
nature, and a federal grand jury in Washington, DC indicted him on two
charges of mailing and importing child pornography. The indictment refers to
"obscene, lewd, lascivious and filthy magazines, pictures and films, commonly
known as 'child pornography’”.
However, the charges were dismissed after his lawyers successfully argued
that his home had been searched under an invalid warrant.
In 1988, Nader again reportedly received material depicting underage boys.
No charges were brought, although his home was searched and prosecutors
allege that child pornography was found in his toilet.
He’d say, ‘Oh, I’m just looking at this picture of my sweetie, my beautiful
boy’
- former colleague of Nader
In 1990, Nader was caught attempting to import two child pornography
videos into the United States through Washington-Dulles International
airport. The videos were found hidden inside sweet tins.
He pleaded guilty and received a reduced sentence after a number of people
testified that he was working at that time to secure the release of American
hostages in Lebanon.
The court was told that Nader had met repeatedly with a number of Israeli
intelligence officers and the leadership of Hezbollah as part of this effort.
He is thought to have spent around six months in a halfway house in
Baltimore, under federal custody, and was fined $2,000.
Prosecutors said, on his most recent court appearance, that Nader brought 14-
year-old boys into the United States in 1997 and 2002. One of them reportedly
told FBI agents that he watched child pornography with Nader; the other said
he was sexually abused.
But even earlier, there appears to have been a third teenage boy in Nader’s
life. In the early 1990s, the former colleague said that he would sometimes find
Nader crying at the MEI office in Farragut Square, a couple of blocks from
the White House, looking at a photo of a Czech teenage boy who he thought
was about 15 at the time.
“He’d say, ‘Oh, I’m just looking at this picture of my sweetie, my beautiful
boy’, and he showed me this picture of this boy from Eastern Europe whom
he had kind of adopted and educated. His parents sent him over here,” the
colleague said.
Occasionally, the colleague said, the boy would visit the office to see Nader. “It
was clear to me that he hated George. He hated him,” he said.
Then in 2003 came Nader’s most serious conviction, when he received a one-
year prison sentence in the Czech Republic on 10 charges of sexually abusing
children. A spokesperson at the Prague Municipal Court confirmed the
conviction to the Associated Press news agency.
MEE contacted Nader’s legal team to comment for this piece, but did not
receive a reply.
Shuttle diplomacy
In 1998, Nader had become involved in shuttle diplomacy between Syria and
Israel over the Golan Heights, an area which Israel captured during the 1967
war with its Arab neighbours.
Ron Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder companies, represented the Israelis and
Walid Muallem, then Syrian ambassador in Washington, represented
Damascus. Nader knew both.
According to a high-level Israeli official who was directly involved in the
process, Nader accompanied Lauder to Damascus multiple times - potentially
as many as 16 visits to assist with translation and liaise with the Syrians.
“I found him to be likable but unreliable,” the official said. “He lied, possibly
to advance the talks, but lied nonetheless.”
While at the time the channel was a serious attempt, it ended in
“catastrophe”, said a former mediator who has spoken to parties on both sides
of the talks.
“It was fated to not work because George knew nothing about what he was
doing. It was also fated not to work because he didn’t understand the Israelis.
They were never going to give the Golan Heights back,” said the source.
According to the source, then-Syrian President Hafez al-Assad placed
Muallem under house arrest when the talks collapsed because he believed he
had been lied to about what the Israelis had agreed. Muallem was said to have
told friends he thought he was going to be shot.
Yacht summit
After the failure of this initiative, Nader disappeared from the United States
for several years: his associates in Washington assumed he had returned to
the Middle East.
This absence is explained in part by the time he spent in a Czech prison cell.
On release, he showed up in post-invasion Iraq, representing himself as an
agent of Blackwater, the private military company.
In a 2010 deposition, however, Erik Prince, the founder of
Blackwater, reportedly denied that Nader had worked directly for the
company, describing him as a “business development consultant” hired to
land deals with the Iraqi government without success. There is no indication
that Prince knew about Nader's previous convictions.
Nader also attempted to broker an arms deal between the Iraqi government
and Russia - an enterprise that was reportedly successful, but then was
cancelled a month later over apparent corruption concerns.
Subsequently he settled in Abu Dhabi, where he became a senior political
advisor to MBZ.
EXCLUSIVE: The secret yacht summit that realigned the Middle East
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In late 2015, he was instrumental in arranging a secret summit of Arab
leaders on a yacht in the Red Sea, where he suggested that they should
establish an elite regional group of six countries to supplant both the Gulf
Cooperation Council and the Arab League.
Nader’s plan was that the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and
Libya would counter the influence of Turkey and Iran.
In early 2018, within weeks of the FBI’s seizure of the latest cache of child
pornography, Nader began to co-operate with Robert Mueller, the US special
counsel who was investigating allegations of Russian interference in the 2016
presidential election.
Nader told Mueller that before the election he had developed contacts with
both the Trump and Clinton campaigns. One of his points of contact with the
Trump team was reportedly through Joel Zamel, the owner of Psy-Group, an
Israeli private intelligence firm which specialised in social media
manipulation.
Zamel is reported to have approached Nader at an economic conference in St
Petersburg, Russia, asking whether he could raise finance in the Gulf for a
social media campaign he was hoping to run on behalf of the Trump
campaign. Zamel denies that he spoke to Nader about aiding Trump.
Psy-Group closed last year, and it remains unclear whether the firm did any
work for the Trump campaign; its activities are thought to remain under FBI
investigation.
But Nader’s strongest link with team Trump appears to have been
through Prince.
In 2010, Prince had moved to Abu Dhabi, where he had overseen the
formation of an 800-strong force of foreign mercenaries. MBZ has told US
envoys that he does not trust his own armed forces to not turn against him if
he is denounced by “a holy man in Mecca or Medina”, according to
a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks.
It is unclear how much success Nader enjoyed in his attempts to cultivate
contacts with the Clinton campaign team before the 2016 presidential election.
What is known is that in August that year, three months before the election,
Nader met with Prince, Zamel and Donald Trump Jnr, the president’s eldest
son, at Trump Tower in New York. While Zamel is said to have taken the
opportunity to explain how his company could give political campaigns a
social media advantage, he denies that he eventually worked for the Trump
campaign.
Immediately following Trump’s election victory – and while Barack Obama
was still in the White House – MBZ flew to New York for a meeting with
Nader and three key members of the new president’s incoming team: his son-
in-law Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, who was lined up to become national
security advisor, and his strategist Steve Bannon.
Mohammed bin Zayed (L) met US President Donald Trump at the White
House in May 2017 (Reuters)
Obama and senior members of his administration are said to have felt let
down by the United Arab Emirates: it is customary for foreign leaders to
inform the US government of their plans to visit.
Nader is reported to have been a frequent visitor to the White House in the
months following the election, becoming friendly with Bannon and also seeing
Kushner.
One of the contacts he cultivated was Elliott Broidy, then-deputy finance
chairman of the Republican National Committee, which helps to develop the
party’s policy and election strategy, as well as raise funds.
Nader is alleged to have wired $2.7m to Broidy through a company in
Canada, apparently to pay for the costs of two conferences at Washington
think tanks, where MBZ’s betes noires, the government of Qatar and the
Muslim Brotherhood, were heavily criticised.
Citing a number of leaked documents, the New York Times reported that
Nader also helped to arrange deals with the UAE that were worth $200m to
Broidy and said that he raised the possibility of a further $1bn of business.
The joint agenda of the two men, the Times said, was to push for the removal
of Rex Tillerson as US secretary of state and to persuade the White House to
adopt a more confrontational approach to Qatar and Iran.
According to analysis carried out by the Associated Press, Broidy has made
donations of almost $600,000 to Republican congressmen and party
committees as part of a campaign for legislation that would brand Qatar as a
state supporter of terrorism.
Trump denounced Qatar as a funder of terrorism the following June and
Tillerson was sacked in March last year. The White House has since softened
its stance on Qatar, which is home to two major US military bases, including
one which overseas US air operations over Iraq and Syria.
The Russian connection
By now, Nader was attempting an even more ambitious back-channel
diplomatic maneouvre, this time three-way talks involving the US, the
Russians and the United Arab Emirates - apparently with the encouragement
of MBZ.
Mueller concluded that Nader had become “a close business associate” of
Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund. Dmitriev is in
turn closely connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin, describing him as
his “boss”, Mueller reported.
Nader told Mueller that he believed Dmitriev to have the role of a Russian
envoy to the Gulf region, and relayed his views directly to MBZ.
Following the 2016 election, Dmitriev asked Nader to introduce him to
members of the Trump transition team, and Nader set up meetings with Erik
Prince in January 2017. The three men first met in the Seychelles, at a Four
Seasons Hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Nader told Mueller that MBZ was also staying at the hotel, leading to
speculation that the crown prince may have hoped to become an intermediary
between Washington and Moscow.
Dmitriev appears to have been less than impressed: Nader told Mueller that
he had been hoping for something of greater substance. Nothing came of the
meetings.
By this time, Nader’s unlikely 30-year career as an international emissary was
about to come to a juddering halt.
Arriving at New York's John F Kennedy airport on 3 June, Nader was
arrested and charged with an alleged crime that had come to light more than
a year ago, shortly before he had begun to co-operate with Mueller.
In January 2018, while arriving at Washington-Dulles International Airport,
he is alleged to have been in possession of an iPhone 7 on which was stored a
dozen videos of boys – some as young as two or three years old – being
sexually abused.
Although Nader had been granted immunity when he agreed to co-operate
with Mueller, that deal appears to have extended only to his testimony on his
links with the Russians – or has been withdrawn.
According to a statement sworn by an FBI agent who has reviewed the films,
some of the abuse involved animals and some could be seen to result in the
children being hurt.
The day after his arrest, Nader appeared in Brooklyn federal court, looking
dishevelled in a khaki jumpsuit. He was refused bail after the judge heard
that he had assets of around $3m, a sum that many who know him regard as
laughably wide of the mark.
In addition to the videos, prosecutors said investigators had found text
exchanges between Nader and MBZ, and with Mohammed bin Salman, the
Saudi crown prince.
The court also heard that the Czech offence involved Nader transporting a 14-
year-old boy out of that country, and then threatening the child and his
mother with physical harm if they reported the crime.
If convicted, Nader faces between 15 and 40 years in jail. At the end of June,
the court agreed that in addition to his nine lawyers, Nader can have access to
three paralegals and a psychiatrist specialised in sexual offenses.
Posted by Thavam