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WASHINGTON — Elliott Broidy, a former top fund-raiser for President Trump, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws as part of a covert campaign to influence the administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests.
Mr. Broidy, 63, agreed to forfeit $6.6 million to the federal government and to cooperate with prosecutors on a range of potential investigations related to his fellow conspirators and others.
The charge is a felony that could carry a prison sentence of up to five years, but his cooperation is likely to result in a lesser sentence. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12.
Mr. Broidy’s guilty plea relates to his arrangement with the fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low, who was not identified by name in court filings or during the hearing on Tuesday.
Mr. Broidy admitted that he had accepted $9 million from Mr. Low, some of which was then paid to an associate, to push the Trump administration for the extradition of a Chinese dissident and to drop a case related to an embezzlement scheme from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund that the United States has accused Mr. Low of engineering.
He also admitted to meeting with a Chinese government official who was seeking the extradition of the dissident, who was not identified in court, but who is known to be the billionaire Guo Wengui, an outspoken critic of China who has been charged by its government with corruption and is seeking asylum in the United States.
Mr. Broidy did not disclose the foreign lobbying work with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, but he knew that he should have, he told Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a virtual hearing.
After that run-in with the law, he retreated from Republican fund-raising for years. But he re-emerged as a leading fund-raiser for Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, his inauguration and the Republican Party.
When Mr. Trump won, Mr. Broidy began aggressively promoting his connections to the new administration to politicians, business executives and governments around the world. His defense company won big contracts from the United Arab Emirates and Angola. And Mr. Broidy discussed the possibility of a visit to Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private resort in Florida, for an Angolan politician from whom he was seeking to collect additional payments.
Mr. Broidy’s guilty plea relates to only his work on behalf of Malaysian and Chinese interests.
But Judge Kollar-Kotelly said that prosecutors intended to introduce evidence at Mr. Broidy’s sentencing related to his efforts “to obtain business from a Middle Eastern country,” which is most likely the United Arab Emirates, and his “efforts to influence U.S. policy toward a second Middle Eastern country,” which is known to be Qatar.
Prosecutors also said on Tuesday that additional charges “may be filed in this case,” citing “the pending nature of some of the other co-conspirators in this case and their cases.”
Some of Mr. Broidy’s associates in the scheme with Mr. Low have already been charged, including Nickie Lum Davis, a fund-raiser who pleaded guilty in August and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Another, George Higginbotham, a former Justice Department employee, pleaded guilty in 2018 to conspiring to lie to banks about the source of tens of millions of dollars he funneled into the United States from Mr. Low.
The federal authorities have accused Mr. Low of playing a key role in the embezzlement of billions of dollars from the Malaysian fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB.
Mr. Low has denied wrongdoing.
Mr. Broidy’s guilty plea came on the same day it was revealed that an Asian subsidiary of Goldman Sachs would plead guilty to charges in the United States to resolve a foreign corruption and bribery case over its involvement in the 1MDB matter.
Mr. Low had retained Mr. Broidy to use his connections to push to end the 1MDB investigation.
Mr. Broidy admitted on Tuesday that he had asked Mr. Trump in June 2017 if he would play golf with Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia. Mr. Najib was not identified in court, but he was in office at the time and was planning a trip to Washington, despite being under investigation by federal prosecutors for his role in the embezzlement.
Mr. Broidy said he believed that the golf game with Mr. Trump would please Mr. Najib, allow him to try to resolve the 1MDB matter and potentially lead to business opportunities with the government of Malaysia.
Mr. Najib did meet with the president in September 2017, but he was denied the customary photograph in the Oval Office with the president, let alone the golf outing, despite Mr. Broidy’s repeated lobbying of Mr. Trump’s aides. Mr. Najib was later convicted in Malaysia of corruption charges related to the 1MDB theft.
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