By Olga Torres

On July 10, 2023, the Department of Justice announced charges against Gal Luft, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel, for acting as an unregistered foreign agent in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA); violations of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR); and breaching U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

Mr. Luft was a lieutenant colonel in the Israel Defense Forces and was co-Director of a Washington, DC think tank with a focus on energy, security, and economic trends. He has a PhD in strategic studies from Johns Hopkins University. Interestingly, Mr. Luft was cited by Republicans as a potential key witness in their investigations of the Biden family. He is currently a fugitive after being arrested in Cyprus in February but fleeing while awaiting extradition to the United States. The 8-count indictment accuses Gal Luft of multiple different criminal activities.

Conspiracy to Violate FARA

The indictment includes allegations that Mr. Luft conspired to violate the FARA. FARA is a federal disclosure requirement law that aims to combat covert influence in the United States by promoting transparency in the political, media, and public relations activities of “agents of foreign principals.” The Act requires certain entities and individuals in the United States that are acting on behalf of foreign principals to (i) register as foreign agents with the U.S. Attorney General within ten days of becoming an agent, (ii) disclose information related to their foreign representations, including by publicly filing and conspicuously labeling informational material distributed in the United States, and (iii) maintain written records for inspection by U.S. law enforcement authorities.

According to the indictment, for years Mr. Luft engaged in a scheme to act within the United States to advance the interests of the People’s Republic of China without registering as a foreign agent as required by FARA.

Conspiracy to Violate the Arms Export Control Act

The indictment also alleges conspiracy to violate the AECA by brokering and attempting to broker multiple illicit weapons deals involving various countries, including Libya, the United Arab Emirates, and Kenya. In his alleged role as an arms broker, Luft worked to find buyers and sellers of weapons and other defense articles controlled under the ITAR’s United States Munitions List (USML) without a license from the Department of State in violation of the ITAR.

Conspiracy to Violate U.S. Sanctions Against Iran

Luft also allegedly agreed to and attempted to broker deals for Iranian oil, which he directed an associate to refer to as “Brazilian” oil instead. In his alleged role as broker, he solicited buyers and passed on pricing and other information. He also allegedly assisted in setting up meetings between Iranian representatives and an energy company in China for the purpose of discussing oil deals in violation of U.S. sanctions and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

For more information on FARA, ITAR export controls, and economic sanctions compliance and enforcement, do not hesitate to contact the Torres Trade Team. We have previously covered FARA in various articles, including articles discussing enforcement trends and reforms to FARA statute as well as an article on Think Tanks and FARA Registration. You can also listen to our podcast with the Episode 10- the Foreign Agents Registration Act – Torres Talks Trade | Podcast on Spotify.