A man charged with using straw donors and other conduits to donate millions of dollars to help elect Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race has been acquitted by a federal jury in Washington.
“The jury returned the not-guilty verdicts for Rani El-Saadi of Los Angeles, a travel services provider, on the third day of deliberations following a two-week trial,” Politico reported. “Jurors indicated in a note on Thursday afternoon that they were ‘unable’ to reach a verdict against the other defendant, Mohammad Diab of Glendale, Calif.”
Prosecutor Michelle Parikh had told jurors, “This is a case about a large-scale conspiracy to funnel well in excess of $1 million into the U.S. political system — money that came from the United Arab Emirates.”
More from Politico:
Prosecutors alleged that El-Saadi and Diab served as conduits for Andy Khawaja, the high-flying owner of a payment processing company, to route money into the U.S. political system during the 2016 presidential campaign.
While Khawaja reportedly became a billionaire as a result of the success of his Allied Wallet payments business, a grand jury indictment returned in 2019 said the funds directed to U.S. politics originated with a man who played a prominent role in U.S. Middle East policy and business deals for several decades, George Nader.
However, outside the presence of the jury, prosecutors said they believed that the original source of the money was actually the government of the United Arab Emirates.
Nader had “a history of child pornography charges and got a 10-year sentence in a sex-abuse case in 2020,” as noted in the article
In all, eight people were indicted, but only El-Saadi and Diab went to trial as Nader and four other defendants pleaded guilty in the case and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, the political news outlet said. Khawaja, who is reportedly a billionaire, was arrested in Lithuania in 2019 but is fighting extradition to the U.S.
Khawaja reportedly hosted an event at his Los Angeles home in 2016 with former President Bill Clinton in exchange for donating or raising about $1 million for committees associated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The indictment stated that more than $3.5 million was sent to pro-Clinton committees and prosecutors said after the election, some donations were made to the GOP.
“After Trump’s victory in 2016, the conspiracy shifted to direct some funds to Republicans, while still aiding Democrats, according to prosecutors,” Politico reported. “The indictment in the case lists $750,000 in donations to the Republican National Committee in 2017, as well as $225,000 to the GOP’s Protect the House committee and $337,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee the following year. Khawaja also gave $1 million to the Trump inaugural committee and got inaugural tickets in return, the indictment alleges.”
El-Saadi feared that Donald Trump’s promised ban on Muslim visitors to the U.S. would devastate his Los Angeles-based luxury transport business, according to his attorney.
“He believed that his contribution to Hillary Clinton’s campaign would save his business,” defense lawyer Megan Church said. “His company catered to clients who were travelers from Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East — the same people Mr. Trump intended to ban from the U.S. A Trump presidency posed a fatal threat to Mr. El-Saadi’s business. That’s why he donated.”
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