A former top fundraiser for President Donald Trump pleaded guilty Tuesday to illegally lobbying the US government to drop its probe into the 1MDB corruption scandal and to deport an exiled Chinese billionaire.
Elliott Broidy, 63, was charged in early October with one count of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent after allegedly agreeing to take millions of dollars to lobby the Trump administration.
At the time Broidy was national deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, after having been a major fundraiser for Trump’s successful 2016 presidential campaign.
The indictment said Broidy was recruited in 2017 by an unnamed foreign national, understood to be businessman Low Taek Jho, to pressure US officials to end their investigation of a scandal engulfing then-prime minister Najib Razak.
The scandal involved the theft of over US$4.5 billion from state investment fund 1MDB, and Low was allegedly central to moving and hiding some of the stolen funds.
The lobbying included trying to arrange for Najib and Trump to play golf together in September 2017, to give the former prime minister a chance to pressure Trump to end the US probe.
The golf game never happened, and Low was indicted in 2018 for his role in siphoning off billions from 1MDB.
In addition, in May 2017 Low introduced Broidy to a senior Chinese security official, and they discussed Beijing’s desire that Washington deport an exiled Chinese tycoon, known to be Guo Wengui, a prominent dissident businessman.
The indictment describes Broidy’s intense lobbying of the White House, the Department of Justice (DoJ) and law enforcement on behalf of the Chinese, including contacts with but not direct discussions with Trump.
“This case demonstrates how foreign governments and principals seek to advance their agendas in the US by hiding behind politically influential proxies,” said Acting Assistant Attorney-General Brian Rabbitt in a statement.
“Such conduct poses a serious threat to our national security and undermines the integrity of our democracy.”
Broidy faces a maximum of five years in prison, and is forfeiting US$6.6 million he earned from Low for the lobbying, the DoJ said.