Exclusive: A mysterious $500,000 check, an unexplained sudden shift in U.S. policy towards Libya, and Donald Trump’s decade-long association with a reputed oil-smuggling oligarch.
Are Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani profiting from oil illegally smuggled from Libya by this man?
The oil smuggler
In June 2016, even the somewhat jaded local media of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat was curious about the wedding du jour. The bride was a 21-year-old Ukrainian heiress who was led to the altar by her father, Pavel Fuchs.
Fuchs is a Ukrainian oligarch worth $270 Million. He’s an ally of Vladimir Putin, a purported Russian agent and a business associate of Donald Trump’s for over a decade.
Fuchs surprised everyone when he married off his daughter to Ma’sud Abdelhafid, the grandson of Muammar Gaddafi’s henchman who bore the same name. The wedding sealed a deal between Fuchs and and his new son-in-law to jointly smuggle oil from Libya to the West.
Only if we get the oil
Trump has coveted Libyan oil, which he describes as the finest in the world, for almost a decade.
“I’d only be interested in Libya if we get the oil,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal in 2011. “Without the oil, I have no interest and we shouldn’t be there.”
A year earlier, Trump struck a deal with Muammar Gaddafi to pitch a tent at Trump’s golf course while the then-Libyan leader visited the U.N., but Trump’s most bizarre intersection with Libya came in 2016.
Trump stunned observers during a campaign speech at the Mayflower Hotel when he declared ISIS was smuggling Libyan oil.
“ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week, selling Libya oil and you know what?” Trump asked. “We don’t blockade, we don’t bomb, we don’t do anything about it.”
“It’s almost as if our country doesn’t even know what’s happening, which could be a fact and could be true,” Trump said.
Trump was uncharacteristically accurate but at the time, no-one knew it. The next day, Factcheck.org quoted an expert saying “there’s no evidence the Islamic State is producing or selling oil out of [Libya].”
The world eventually learned in late 2017 what Trump claimed was true in April 2016. ISIS was making millions by selling smuggled Libyan oil.
How did Donald Trump know that Libyan oil was being smuggled by ISIS over a year-and-a-half before anyone else? Perhaps his friend Pavel Fuchs told him.
It seems that Fuchs was involved in smuggling Libyan oil in partnership with his son-in-law, Masud Abdelhafid, from June 2016, one month after Trump’s Mayflower Hotel speech.
Trump and Fuchs have been business associates since 2004 when they partnered on an early attempt to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and have stayed close ever since. It seems unlikely Trump was ratting out his business pal Fuchs during his Mayflower Hotel speech. What he likely meant is that he’s missing out on a business opportunity.
A $500,000 check
Meanwhile, It’s curious that in August 2017, Fuchs wrote Rudy Giuliani a check for $500,000.
Trump’s personal attorney officially pocketed the half-a-million dollars for “security consulting” for the city of Kharkiv but it was later revealed the check came from Fuchs’ personal bank account not the city coffers.
Subsequently, Fuchs said the money was paid to Giuliani for lobbying in the U.S. on behalf of Kharkiv but even that strains credulity. It certainly seems likely Giuliani was hired to ‘lobby’ by Fuchs but was it really about Kharkiv?
Battle for Libya
Of course everyone is entitled to have friends who may be involved in criminal schemes, even with people listed on the UN terror watch-list. Indeed, it’s legal for your lawyer to consult for cities, companies or individuals. What makes these two otherwise acceptable things suspicious is the very sudden policy shift Trump announced regarding Libya in April last year.
Out of the blue, Trump bucked U.S. Libyan policy and threw his support behind Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar instead of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, which the U.S. still officially backs. The change in position came after a phone call from Trump to Haftar on April 15 which caught everyone by surprise.
“State and defence were not aware of the Trump call, let alone supported it,” said Jonathan Winer, a former US envoy on Libya. “It has taken a wrecking ball to our Libya policy.”
The repositioning did not last last long and the U.S. remains officially supportive of the Tripoli government but like other sudden shifts in the Trump presidency, the uncertainty adds uneasiness and reminds onlookers of the on, off and on-again policy shifts towards the Kurds in Syria.
A sudden shift
What prompted Trump to make the sudden redirection towards Haftar? Could it be that Vladimir Putin backs Haftar? Is it because Haftar – who reigns over Libya’s ports – made it possible for Fuchs to get his son-in-law’s oil to market? Did Fuchs’ $500,000 ‘lobbying’ check have something to do with the change of heart? Or was there another inducement which shifted Trump’s allegiance?
Many questions but not enough proof to reach a definitive conclusion yet, but as the world’s attention turns to Libya, much more investigation is needed into this suspicious fact pattern.
In the coming days, Turkish troops will enter Libya to oppose Haftar’s forces. Although Russia and Turkey are working in concert, Turkey’s Erdogan supports the Tripoli government while Putin supports Haftar.
It may be up to the U.S. to weigh in on the winner. Will Trump follow Putin’s lead and support Haftar? or will traditional U.S. interests finally prevail keeping Libya on the U.S. side of the ledger? Or is it all a foregone conclusion already agreed upon by the strongman alliance?
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This story was first broadcast as a video podcast. You can watch it here.