It fell under the radar when it was announced, but a new project with some major names from the political right have come together to fight fraud and corruption in the Middle East at a pivotal time for US relations in the tumultuous region.
Launched last month at the National Press Club in Washington, the Global Justice Foundation includes former Clinton-era independent counsel Kenneth Starr and Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor who has been outspoken in calling out corruption in the Deep State’s war against President Donald Trump.
The first case the group has highlighted is Tameer Holding, which they claim is among the largest-ever cases of real estate fraud in the Middle East.
On one side is Omar Ayesh, a Canadian businessman now living in the United States, and on the other side are two Saudi brothers, Abdullah al-Rajhi and Ahmed al-Rajhi.
Ayesh, who created the foundation but says it will work on cases beyond his, accuses them of carrying out an Enron-level fraud estimated at $1.85 billion, and has been slow-walked through the courts of the United Arab Emirates for 11 years with no resolution.
The details aren’t that important, nor is the incredibly sensational sum of money involved. What makes this really interesting is the direct connection to the Saudi government headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: Ahmed al-Rajhi is the cabinet minister for labor and social development.
Opening up Saudi Arabia to international investment and development has been a top priority for MBS, but Tameer or other cases like it could make achieving that goal even more difficult for the future king.
This is also a critical test for the United Arab Emirates — best known for Dubai and Abu Dhabi — and its public institutions at a time when the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, publicly says nobody is above the law.
Speaking about her involvement, Powell said she shares Ayesh’s passion for seeking justice.
‘We have a huge problem worldwide: Business requires certainty within which to operate,’ the former federal prosecutor said. ‘If Dubai wants to be the financial capital of the Middle East, it is going to have to create a legal system that pays more than lip service to the rule of law.’
Starr echoed her remarks during the National Press Club launch.
‘No one is above the law is easy to say and hard to achieve, especially when you have power,’ he said. ‘There needs to be an avenue where disputes, commercial and otherwise, can be quickly and fairly addressed.’
Starr and Powell’s involvement in Ayesh’s newly launched Global Justice Foundation gives the Middle East notice that Washington’s biggest players are watching.
It also complicates the already complicated sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as the US Senate voted Thursday to block the Trump administration from going ahead with the sales.
Needless to say, the Tameer case is probably the last thing Saudi and UAE rulers want to hear about right now.
Dennis Lennox is a freelance writer and political commentator.