NEW YORK (Reuters) – Gal Luft, the leader of a U.S. think tank, has been charged with acting as an unregistered agent of China and seeking to broker the sale of Iranian oil, federal prosecutors in Manhattan said on Monday.
Luft, a citizen of the United States and Israel, is accused of recruiting and paying a former high-ranking U.S. government official on behalf of principals based in China in 2016.
Prosecutors did not identify the former official, but said he was working as an adviser to the then-president elect Donald Trump at the time.
A Twitter account bearing Luft’s name, with more than 15,000 followers, said in a Feb. 18 tweet that he had been arrested in Cyprus “on a politically motivated extradition request by the U.S.”
“I’ve never been an arms dealer,” Luft said in the tweet. He did not immediately respond to a direct message sent by Reuters.
Luft was arrested in February in Cyprus on U.S. charges, but fled after being released on bail while awaiting extradition, prosecutors said. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Luft is co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, which describes itself as a think tank focused on energy, security and economic trends.
The think tank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Chris Reese and Stephen Coates)
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