The United Arab Emirates has sentenced an American citizen and the former lawyer of Jamal Khashoggi — the dissident Saudi journalist who was killed at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018 — to three years in prison on charges of money laundering and tax evasion.
The Abu Dhabi Money Laundering Court also ordered that the lawyer, U.S. citizen Asim Ghafoor, pay a fine of $816,748 stemming from his in absentia conviction, the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported late Saturday. The UAE’s state-linked newspaper The National said he would be deported to the U.S. after completing his sentence.
The UAE framed Ghafoor’s arrest as a coordinated move with the U.S. to “combat transnational crimes.” Emirati state-run media said American authorities had requested the UAE’s help with an investigation into Ghafoor’s alleged tax evasion and suspicious money transfers in the Emirates.
The autocratic Gulf Arab sheikhdom announced the prison sentence a day after Washington-based human rights watchdog Democracy for the Arab World Now, DAWN, raised alarm about Ghafoor’s arrest from Dubai International Airport.DAWN said that its board member, a civil rights attorney based in Virginia who had represented Khashoggi and his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, was in transit to Istanbul on Thursday to attend a wedding when plainclothes Emirati security agents scooped him up and sent him to an Abu Dhabi detention facility before he could change planes.
Ghafoor had no knowledge of any case against him and had transited through Dubai without incident less than a year ago, DAWN said.The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.